Date of Graduation

7-2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Human Resource and Workforce Development (EdD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders

Advisor

Vicki Dieffenderfer

Committee Member

Ed Pohl

Second Committee Member

Carsten Schmidtke

Keywords

ambition, human resources, organizational development, personality, psychology, talent management

Abstract

Though a common term, ambition is a multifaceted concept that is vastly under researched despite it being labeled necessary for success in the workplace. Of even greater irony is that several sources indicate a significant majority of the reason that employees leave organizations is due to a perceived lack of career development or opportunity, a problem that speaks directly to talent management practices. In light the costly nature of this problem and the presence of sophisticated talent management professionals in large and medium-sized organizations which comprise half or more of the workforce, it causes one to question the assumptions that ambition is indeed valued in the workplace.

This constructivist study seeks to understand from both an employee and a managerial perspective how ambition is valued in the workplace. It leverages key theoretical constructs such as social cognitive theory and social cognitive career theory to understand aspects of the expression of ambition. Sixteen diverse working professionals with an average of over 20 years of work experience and nearly 10 years of managerial experience were interviewed about their lived experiences of how ambition is expressed and valued. Universally, participants agreed that ambition contributes to organizationally desirable outcomes including higher performance and increased retention as well as some participants noting other potential outcomes including increased innovation and even inclusivity. Despite this, the expression of ambition is highly attenuated by elements of organizational structure, the disposition of the proximal manager, as well as other variables including the gender expression of ambition.

Findings imply significant potential impact for talent management professionals and organizational leaders as they work to attract and retain talent in an increasingly competitive marketplace as well as suggest myriad other avenues for further inquiry.

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