When Motives Collide

People have constructive social motives.

They strive to belong. Being part of a social group feels good. It bolsters a person’s confidence to be part of a larger entity. Whether the issue is physical survival or thriving in a competitive global environment, people usually feel more confident as belonging to a group than operating as an independent. The group brings a variety of resources. As a collective, they appear more formidable.

People strive to nurture and to be nurture. Belonging to a group is not enough on its own. The day-to-day exchange of social support, advice, and physical assistance feels good. Giving and receiving support are integral to connections with others.

People strive for esteem. They very much want respect from others. People want to be valued as contributors. When people feel they are getting a free ride, they get nervous. It feels risky because such arrangements do not last. They come back to bite you.

With these three bedrock motives, where can things go wrong? How could the quest for belonging, contributing, and respect produce workgroups that are vapid, awkward, or actively destructive. The elements identified here do not have an obvious pathway to the toxic workgroups that occur much too often.

First, most workgroups operate quite well. So, the usual unfolding of social motives appears to be constructive. People get along. With the right leadership, they produce while getting along.

But not always.

Being creative and multifaceted, people have various ways of taking the natural process off the rails.

Future posts will explore some possibilities, including:

    • Evil Motives: To what extent could being hurtful to others be an end in itself?

    • Conflicting Motives: How constructive motives may collide with one another.

    • Twisted Motives: How what begins as constructive takes a wrong turn.

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