RAPID: When Pride Becomes Shame: Organizational Identification and Self-Presentation During Scandal

Project: Research project

Project Details


Employees vary in their organizational identification, the extent they view themselves as personally connected to and part of their work organization. When the organization is doing well, such identification can benefit self-concept, motivational energy, and health, which is especially beneficial for front-line employees because they actually feel the enthusiasm and pride they need to express to potential clients or donors. Paradoxically, organizational identification can become a liability if the organization becomes associated with scandal or stigma, such that one's pride-by-association turns to feelings of shame and betrayal. In such cases, those who are the most motivated become those who are most threatened; how do such employees respond, and how does this affect their health and performance?

To answer these questions, a current real-life event, the scandal at Pennsylvania State University, provides a unique time-sensitive context. The proposed research integrates social identity and emotion regulation theories to more fully understand the process and outcomes of responding to an identity threat. The researchers expect that organizational identification is likely to influence employees health and performance via the strength of emotional response (i.e., shame and betrayal), and emotional regulation (i.e., refocusing, suppressing) while they work with the public. We assess whether a 'climate of authenticity' at work (i.e., emphasizing openness and honesty) buffers or exacerbates the health and performance costs of these negative emotions from identity threat.

This project has the potential to demonstrate generalizability of traditionally laboratory-based models of identity and self-regulation, and to provide evidence regarding how to protect employee well-being in organizational settings where, too often, there is negative media and scandal. Furthermore, this project provides important information about a way to reduce the costs of interpersonal self-regulation to health and motivation in field settings.

Effective start/end date11/1/124/30/15


  • National Science Foundation: $41,076.00


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