1. Relational Self
Internalizing the relational selF
The relational self-affirmation process involves individuals collecting narratives about times they contributed positively to others, thus capitalizing on their pre-existing personal network of relationships. Whereas much of the research in this area has focused on the self-centered process of affirmation (e.g., reflecting on one’s core values), the contribution narratives that individuals collect from others can enable them to reflect on how they influence others. My research shows that the process of relational self-affirmation can improve employment relationships and team performance, as well as individual health and stress resilience.
Working in teams often leads to productivity loss because the need to feel accepted prevents individual members from making a unique contribution to the team in terms of the information or perspective they can offer. Drawing on self-affirmation theory, we propose that pre-team relational self-affirmation can prepare individuals to contribute to team creative performance more effectively. We theorize that relationally-affirming one’s self-views increases general feelings of being socially valued by others, leading to better information exchange and creative performance. In a first study, we found that teams in which members affirmed their best selves prior to team formation (i.e., by soliciting and receiving narratives that highlight one’s positive impact on close others) outperformed teams that did not do so on a creative problem-solving task. In the second experiment, conducted using virtual teams, we show that pre-team relational self-affirmation leads to heightened feelings of social worth, which in turn explains the effect of the treatment on the team’s ability to exchange information.
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