Dr. Heather Douglas, University of Newcastle

Dr. Heather Douglas

Dr. Heather Douglas, University of Newcastle


I am lonely at the top: The contribution of situational cues to the experience of imposter phenomenon


The imposter phenomenon describes high-achieving individuals who are under-confident, have persistent self-doubt and fear being exposed. Imposterism increases the risk of career exit, avoidance of career advancement, and poorer job performance. Affected employees are likely to experience increased levels of stress, burnout, and decreased job satisfaction over time. Thus far, imposter phenomenon has been defined as a maladaptive personality style, that some people are more likely to experience. While there is some evidence for this view, it is unlikely that this is the full picture. This talk will focus on how the situation contributes to the exacerbation of imposter traits. I will review some key findings from my own research demonstrating that imposter feelings are more salient in the face of achievement-related tasks. Further, some people are more likely to experience imposter feelings because they are non-traditional participants in these environments. I will review my own research on women and stereotype threat in sport, and the effects of being a non-traditional student at university. The implications of this research for diversity and inclusion activities at an individual, group, and organisational level will be discussed.

Speaker bio: Dr Heather Douglas is an interdisciplinary applied psychologist with expertise in individual differences assessment and measurement. Heather completed her PhD in March of 2014 at the University of Newcastle, on the mechanisms by which personality traits translate into behaviour through values, goals, and vocational interests. Since that time Heather has worked at the Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research (CHSSR) at Macquarie University, and for Murdoch Singapore as a Psychology Lecturer in Personality, Performance, and Organisational Behaviour. Heather rejoined the School of Psychology at the University of Newcastle as Lecturer in Personality and Psychological Measurement in February of 2019.  Heather has a special interest in the assessment and validation of decision-making style measures in organisational psychology, particularly how individuals enhance or conversely handicap their career progression. More recently, she has examined the boundary conditions of imposter phenomenon, including the activities that elicit imposter feelings and the situations under which imposter feelings are more likely to emerge.