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New study sheds light on why some people can't handle success

By CO Staff @canadaone |

The way a person perceives their abilities in the workplace has a direct impact on the person's ability to handle success, according to new research conducted by Dr. Jason Plaks, a social psychologist at the University of Toronto and Kristin Stecher, a research scientist at the University of Washington.

There are two fundamental views that people have about their abilities in the workplace, with one group believing that abilities are fixed while the other believes they are changable.

Those who believe that abilities are fixed were more likely to become anxious and disoriented when faced with dramatic success. Instead of embracing the positive, their performance plummeted compared to those who believed their abilities were malleable.

Conversely, those who believe that abilities are adaptable became equally anxious when they failed to improve on a task where improved performance was expected.

"People are driven to feel that they can predict and control their outcomes. So when their performance turns out to violate their predictions, this can be unnerving - even if the outcome is, objectively speaking, good news," says Plaks.

The authors believe that it would be beneficial for people to recognize whether they view their abilities as fixed or changeable, so that they can understand the pros and cons of each outlook.

"Both approaches are highly intuitive and that makes them relatively easy to teach," says Plaks. "If we can get people to change their underlying assumptions about their abilities then they may improve their performance and that is positive news for those charged with the task of getting people to reach their full potential."

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