Proud…and excited!

businessman-432663_640The Oxford Dictionary defines the meaning of the word ‘proud’ as:

“Feeling deep pleasure or satisfaction as a result of one’s own achievements, qualities, or possessions or those of someone with whom one is closely associated”

i.e. If you are ‘proud’, it is essentially about yourself, even if it is about the actions of others that is making you feel proud.

What compelled me to look up this definition?

…because I find myself with feelings of (almost sub-conscious) irritation when I hear or read about leaders feeling ‘proud’ about what ‘their people’ have achieved (essentially for them) and I wanted to understand why I should feel this way…it was bugging me.

It seems obvious now that I have studied the dictionary definition.  For someone who isn’t, say, your parent to say “I am proud of you” is condescending. It suggests superiority.

It happens to be a phrase used often by command-and-control leadership towards their people.

I’m not really getting at the leaders who write or say it – they are trying to do their best to use ‘happy talk’ because they think this is good for us.  I am trying to point out to them the lack of humility and respect shown by using the word in their congratulatory phrases.

And ‘excited’? This is the other half of the dastardly duo. They always want to come across as ‘excited’ about what lies ahead in the vain hope that this will simply ‘rub off’ onto us….because, after all, that’s all that is necessary to motivate, isn’t it?

If you read an email, or watch a video (as I did) before the Christmas/ New Year breakup from your ‘leaders’ saying something like:

 “I’m proud of what we’ve achieved this year, in spite of the many challenges we’ve been through…and I am very excited about the opportunities ahead of us next year and what we can achieve….so have a relaxing break.”

…this could equally be translated as saying:

  • I am pleased that those of you who are still around (who didn’t leave or weren’t pushed) have put up with what we’ve done to you this year, and I got my bonus on the back of this….
  • …expect lots more stuff to be done to you next year (we’ve got loads of stuff in our heads to impose on you), and we will be holding you accountable for a set of stretching targets on brilliantly crafted personal objectives that will be SMART DUMB
  • Have a good break…because you are going to need it!

8 thoughts on “Proud…and excited!

  1. Reblogged this on thinkpurpose and commented:
    YES, i get the same irritation, and never really thought about why. But of course, it is the patronising assumption that they’re somehow in a position of superiority to be proud at all.
    I can see that parents, coaches of teams, teachers of classes etc can be proud of their children, teams, classes achievements. They have a direct and one to one relationship that has influenced the success of their progeny. They have a RIGHT to feel proud. Whatever achievement is because of the two working together. The child/team/class achieves, but they do it WITH the parent/coach/teacher etc it is just that the parent etc is the absent partner whilst the achievement happens. They aren’t on the pitch, or in the examination hall, but they helped them when they were there.
    That’s a nice thing. You can feel proud FOR someone who you’ve helped, but the “leaders” announcement of pride is sickening. You can feel pride if you have helped.
    Just being higher up the hierarchy is NOT THE SAME THING.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nice. And a parent/coach/teacher (whilst having a right to feel proud because, as you explain, they worked in partnership with you) is probably unlikely to boast about their pride…they will hold it within and enjoy the warm glow…not shout it out for all to hear at every marketing opportunity. A command-and-control leader’s verbal ‘pride’ statement is akin to trying to stamp authority and ownership over you…like a dog marking its territory!


  2. This blog strikes a chord with me too. If you’ve not read it before, you’ll love ‘Good Communication That Blocks Learning’ by Chris Argyris:

    Two quotes that are particularly relevant:

    “Over the last few years, I have come in contact with any number of companies struggling with this transition from command-and-control hierarchy to employee empowerment and organizational learning, and every one of them is its own worst enemy. Managers embrace the language of intrinsic motivation but fail to see how firmly mired in the old extrinsic world their communications actually are.”


    “[The emphasis on being positive] condescendingly assumes that employees can only function in a cheerful world, even if the cheer is false.”


  3. As a child, I once asked my dad if he was proud of me, for some thing I’d achieved. He told me no. Said he didn’t value pride as it has its shadow side: shame. If I allow myself to be proud of you, he said, I’m opening the door to perhaps one day feeling ashamed of you—and I’ll never be ashamed of you, so I’ll equally never be proud of you. I shall only love you, no matter what.

    Pride in someone else is a form of manipulation, and therefore violent. I don’t value it in any context.


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