A good test to distinguish pride from arrogance is whether others feel good associating with you.
Pride is important at all levels - national, societal, organizational, or individual. Dictionary defines pride as ‘a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements or the achievements of one's close associates’. Another definition is ‘consciousness of one’s own dignity’. For nations, it is the binding force that helps preserve the cultural and historical heritage and that brings people together into collective action.
For building a long-lasting sustainable organization, employees, customers, and all stakeholders need to connect with the company. That is, employees must feel excited in answering the question ‘where do you work?’ and customers should be happy talking about ‘whose products do they use’. Research has shown that organizations with employees who have pride towards the company are stronger and healthier than their competitors. Their employees are happier, the workplace dynamics is positive, and they are much more loyal to the company. In such cases, most employees would answer in affirmative to the questions ‘I would recommend employment at this organization’, ‘This organization cares about me’, and ‘I trust this company’s senior leadership in making good decisions’. This creates a powerful force for happiness at work.
Similarly, at an individual level, pride in oneself is positively linked to a sense of satisfaction and having a purposeful life. This brings the confidence that one is going in the right direction. Without it, there is insecurity that can manifest in a variety of behaviors such as exaggeration of one’s job, skills, or achievements to sound superior or unique (an issue I raised in another blog‘Fancy Job Titles’). An accomplished medical doctor recently narrated several instances where the doctors were running their practices with fake or non-recognized degrees, at the same time paying tons of money to get themselves the titles of ‘best doctor in town’, and were having interpersonal issues with other hospital staff on a regular basis. Such acts clearly show an inability to feel confident of oneself.
Interestingly, people often mistake pride with arrogance. Research shows that arrogance and pride are not on a continuum. Instead, they are separate facets. Ironically, arrogance is itself related to low self-esteem. Often times, it is one’s insecurities that lead to arrogant behaviors. For example, suppose that, in a university, a director (head of the institution) is appointed because of his political connections. Suppose also that well-known highly talented scholars work in the same institution. The director’s low self-esteem would lead him to constantly compare himself to these others. Invariably, this comparison would lead to dissatisfaction with oneself, inability to accept others’ superior qualities, and an overall sense of misery. If unchecked, he would end up using tactics such as intimidation, aggression, and sabotage of all the scholarly work. Such stories are common in various workplace settings and also in home environments. In the end, no one can flourish.
You must have noticed some people who are happy in themselves, are comfortable in their decisions, have simple demeanors, and keep most of their accomplishments under wraps. They have no compelling need to consistently brag about themselves. On the other hand, you would have also noticed those who constantly do the song and dance of ‘I, me, and myself’. It is difficult having a conversation with them since they are poor at listening and acknowledging others’ better qualities. Instead, they like to self-aggrandize themselves. Collaborations become difficult and learning slows down. In a research titled ‘Acting superior but Actually Inferior’, Johnson and his colleagues document evidence of such arrogance in workplace being related to lower levels of self- and other-related performance.
A good test to distinguish pride from arrogance is whether others feel good associating with you and your brand - be it a nation, a company, or an individual. Are there cheerleaders - not those who wear matching outfits, sing and dance, and use pom-poms but those who would stand up for you publically?