ScienceDirect recently published a study co-led by Michel Anteby, Dean’s Research Scholar, on how individuals react to public moralization of their work.
During the pandemic, public narratives transformed many lines of work that were previously uncelebrated into highly moralized “essential” and “heroic” labor. But how do individuals react to the sudden change in public perception of their work and with what consequences?
Drawing on a sample of participants, Anteby and his co-authors found that workers who readily accepted the hero label exhibited less heroic behavior than workers who worried it was an unearned moral credential. Those workers were more likely to embrace extra-role helping and remain committed to moralized aspects of the work. Anteby states, “Our study explores why some workers accept a moralized narrative and others reject or wrestle with it, documenting consequences of workers’ reactions to such narratives, and suggesting how moralized public narrative can backfire”.