n South African Journal of Labour Relations - Effects of the imposter phenomenon on measures of assertiveness in female professionals in South Africa

Volume 41 Number 1
  • ISSN : 0379-8410
  • E-ISSN: 2520-3223


Assertiveness is arguably one of the strongest predictors of success among business leaders and professionals. The study focuses on imposter phenomenon (IP), which occurs when an individual, normally considered to be a high achiever, undergoes an internal experience of feeling like an intellectual fraud or experiences a fear of failure upon achieving success, and the relationship of IP with assertiveness. Due to an absence of research on the relationship between IP and assertiveness, particularly in professionals in South Africa, this study investigates the way these two variables relate to each other. The purpose of this study is to 1) investigate whether IP is prevalent in female professionals in South Africa, 2) investigate whether IP and assertiveness are correlated and 3) determine whether IP is a predictor of assertiveness. The study was conducted on working professionals in South Africa (N = 165) and questionnaires were distributed online. The instruments used were the Clance Imposter Phenomenon Survey and elements of the Adaptive and Aggressive Assertiveness Scales. The professionals assessed were drawn from different industry sectors and across all job functions. The results suggest that IP is prevalent in professionals in South Africa and bears a moderately negative relationship to assertiveness. Another finding was that IP is a negative predictor of assertiveness. Gender also had an effect on the relationship between the two variables; the relationship was only found to be significant among women when the sample was split.

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