I was a motivational speaker for a large nurses conference where I heard about an interesting study by Stanford Psychologist, Lee Ross.
Dr Ross had subjects play a game in which they could either cooperate or compete.
Half the subjects were told it was called the Community Game and the other half were told it was the Wall Street Game. Both groups played exactly the same game. The only difference between the two groups was the name of the games were different.
In each round subjects had to decide whether to share money with others or keep it for themselves.
The study found the second group ( Wall Street)was far more likely to steal, lie and cheat. By relating their actions to images of Wall Street they were able to justify these behaviors.
Those who called the game community felt good about sacrificing for the greater good.
What this compelling research shows is the power of labels. It has implications to boost morale at work as it illustrates how people label their work matters. If you call your work meaningless and boring than it will be.
The way people label any activity will impact how they perform.