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Rising To The Challenge: The Interactive Effect of Role Overload and Workplace Impostor Thoughts On Effort and Subsequent Job Performance

Scholars have presented equivocal (i.e., positive, negative, and null) predictions and findings regarding the relationship between role overload and effort. Integrating theoretical advancements on the impostor phenomenon with the challenge-hindrance framework of work stress that highlights the role of appraisal, I position workplace impostor thoughts—popularly known as the impostor phenomenon—as a moderator in the role overload-effort relationship. In two studies (a field study with a measure validation component and a pre-registered experiment; n=1250), I find that when employees have more frequent workplace impostor thoughts, they exert more effort in response to role overload, benefiting performance. Yet, when employees have less frequent workplace impostor thoughts, they exert less effort in reaction to role overload, hurting performance. I do not find that the greater effort for those with more frequent workplace impostor thoughts comes with subsequent well-being costs (e.g., strain, burnout). I close with theoretical and practical implications in view of extant theory and research.

Basima Tewfik
MIT Sloan School of Management
United States


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