Center for Positive Organizations

The Trouble with "Talent": Why Describing Ability as "Talent" may Undermine Grit in the Workplace

Monday, February 8, 2021 - 1:00pm to 2:00pm
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In the last twenty years, the phrase "talent management" has increased dramatically in organizations and management literature. Despite its prevalence, little research has looked at potential consequences of referring to employees and their abilities as "talent."

Join us for a conversation with Angela Duckworth and Daniel Southwick, hosted by Kim Cameron, to learn how organizational language can impact employee grit. They will discuss their recent research showing that describing ability as a talent (as opposed to a skill) is linked to pessimistic attitudes about improvement and persistence and may lead human resource managers to invest fewer resources in employee development. In this session you will learn what leaders can say and do to unleash grit in the workplace.

Angela Duckworth is the founder and CEO of Character Lab, whose mission is to advance scientific insights that help children thrive. She is also the Rosa Lee and Egbert Chang Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, faculty co-director of the Penn-Wharton Behavior Change For Good Initiative, and faculty co-director of Wharton People Analytics.

Previously, Angela founded a summer school for underserved children that was profiled as a Harvard Kennedy School case study and, in 2018, celebrated its 25th anniversary. She has also been a McKinsey management consultant and a public school math and science teacher.

Her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance is a #1 New York Times best seller. She is also co-host, with Stephen Dubner, of the podcast No Stupid Questions.

You can receive her Tip of the Week email newsletter by signing up here

Daniel Southwick is a doctoral student, studying under Dr. Angela Duckworth, in the Department of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on practice, expertise, and people's perceptions of  talent. He is particularly interested in understanding the mindsets that facilitate optimal learning. He has a Masters of Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the University of California at Irvine.

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