How Does Pride Shape Workplace Motivation?

By: Rochelle Caroon-Santiago Ph.D.

In the modern era, employee recruitment and retention is a major concern for organizations. The most valuable resource of any businesses is its people; employee pride is a critical factor in the success of any organization. Pride is a psychological construct, intangible in nature. Pride is not a new concept. In general terms it is a positive emotion that accompanies personal or professional experiences and has the capability to impact motivation both positively and negatively. .Richard Lazarus in his book Emotion and Adaptation (Oxford University Press, 1991) suggested that pride entails the enhancement of an individual’s ego-identity by taking credit for a valued object or achievement, either our own or that of someone or a group with whom we identify such as a compatriot, a member of the family or a group (p. 271). Pride is one of the antecedents of motivation, it confirms personal growth, boosts an individual’s sense of worth, energizes and enhances motivation.

Having pride in one’s work provides a sense of purpose; organizations that attempt to instill or increase pride will likely succeed in achieving their organizational goals. Deci in his volume Intrinsic Motivation (Plenum Press, 1975) put forward that intrinsically motivated behavior is commonly described as behavior that is engaged in for its own sake that ultimately results in feelings of enjoyment, accomplishment, competence and increased self-determination. Extrinsically motivated behavior is often the result of promised tangible outcomes such as increased pay, promotion, release time, or praise. Extrinsic outcomes are often mediated by outsiders (e.g. supervisor, mentor, peers, etc.).

Pride can also be a negative emotion. Richard Lazarus and Bernice Lazarus in their book Passion and Reason: Making Sense of our Emotions. (Oxford University Press, 1994) emphasized that pride is a competitive emotion because it centers on the need to protect and enhance personal identity (p.101). Pride can result in negative behaviors such as stubbornness, the inability to acknowledge mistakes or forgiving the mistakes of others (Lazarus & Lazarus, 1994).

When individuals do not have pride in their organization it may be because of existing discrepancies between their needs, expectations and values, and the actuality of the job. Such inconsistencies may lead to job dissatisfaction and lower levels of motivation. Employees who do not feel a sense of pride in the organization in which they work can damage the overall performance and functioning of that organization. Situations that limit or preclude employee pride must be identified and addressed. Ultimately, it is the best interests of an organization to recognize the benefits of its stakeholders having pride in their workplace and identify specific ways to build it.

There are a variety of ways to instill or boost pride in the workplace.

  1. Provide job security. Individual’s value job security and stability, those who possess it are more likely to feel satisfied with their jobs and have greater pride in their organizations.
  2. Conduct self-esteem workshops that employees can attend in which they are given opportunities to gain insights into their strengths and learn how to think positively.
  3. Create opportunities for success by setting challenging, specific, measurable yet achievable performance goals. This concept is based on self-fulfilling prophecy, a principle that suggests individuals will perform as well as they believe they can.
  4. Celebrate! Celebrating the small steps along the way will instill pride in the small components of the overarching goal, one stride at a time.
  5. Instill a sense of ownership. This can easily be accomplished by involving everyone in the organization. Provide an environment that encourages individuals and groups to put forward their ideas and suggestions,
  6. Recognize and reward achievements. Rewards are most effective when they are given soon after the performance of a desired behavior. A successful recognition and rewards program does not have to be complicated to work effectively. Many organizations employ such plans. A few examples include recognition for years of service, employee of the month, and awards given by peers.
  7. Develop potential. The easiest way to accomplish this is through job rotation and job enrichment. Job rotation encourages employees to learn different jobs within the organization. Job enrichment occurs when employees are afforded more responsibility over time regarding the tasks and decisions specific to their position.

Ultimately as it is with all emotions, it is the personal interpretation and meaning a person attaches to an experience or event that determines whether pride is experienced. The results of building pride in an organization has the power to be transformative; it creates an attitude that separates excellence from mediocrity. Perhaps former NBA star Bill Russell summed it up best when he stated; “The most important measure of how good a game I played was how much better I made my teammates play” (Basketball for Coaches, 2014).

Dr. Rochelle Caroon-Santiago is a professor of psychology at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas and member of the Texas Diversity Council.

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