Prestige is defined as a favorable standing or recognition based on previous merit and reputation. Prestige is often a component in an organization’s reputation and role among its peers. Organizational prestige is also sometimes referred to as a construed external image or perceived external prestige. It is a vital external concept for an organization’s reputation. External opinions are able to influence internal attitudes to help build a sense of community and affection for an organization. This positive attribution can help an organization achieve its goals better. This entry first covers the historical roots of the concept of prestige and the role of attributes and associations in an organization’s prestige. It then discusses the outcomes of prestige and the relationship between prestige and reputation.
The concept of prestige is rooted in the sociological studies of what contributes to an organization’s standing in society or the image that the society holds of it. Prestige is often attributed to organizations or services that have the largest role in their fields or are viewed as making the most impact. Prestige can be developed from an organization’s presence either in a community or in the media because of their familiarity with the organization and its practices. Prestige is a reputational quality built from intrinsic values such as product favorability and brand loyalty, but it can also be developed from external perceptions of goodwill and positive influence in the marketplace.
Attributions and Associations
Prestige can also be an outcome of an organization’s associations or peer networks if they have close ties. An organization can be seen more positively if it is affiliated to other seemingly prestigious entities. A sense of belonging or connectedness to other elite organizations can have a halo effect in which positive attributions are shared among an entire sector or between groups of industry leaders. The attribution of prestige can increase an organization’s positive reputation and its connections to its external publics.
Outcomes of Prestige
Specifically, perceived external prestige is an organization’s employees’ and other internal publics’ perception of how the external world views their organization. An increase in an organization’s external image allows employees to identify more closely with the organization. If employees believe that their organization is viewed to be very prestigious, it can increase their alignment with the organization and even increase their self-esteem. A positive external image or even the perception of a positive image helps solidify a team mentality and a unification of purpose among employees. An increase in perceived external prestige can increase employee engagement. If employees feel that their organization is highly valued by external audiences, they will be more committed to being a part of its success story. The opposite can also be true. If an organization’s reputation becomes tarnished and its public esteem falters, employees’ pride in their work can decrease. It is important for organizations to understand how the external influence of perceived attitudes can affect internal publics, eventually affecting the organization’s productivity. This connection between employees and the organization can increase their sense of pride in the organization, which in turn can increase employees’ efforts and contributions to the organization overall. This is expected to occur most strongly when members believe that distinguished publics view the organization in a positive light.
Prestige and Reputation
Prestige is an important component of an organization’s reputation. It is rooted in an organization’s standing within its community as well as its field. Prestige is influenced and developed through an organization’s connection with other peer organizations and those organizations’ positive reputations. An organization’s positive external image, either perceived or actual, influences the organization’s employees, helping to build a stronger organizational identity among its internal publics. Collectively, a perceived positive image, encouraging peer influence, and a strong organizational identity can improve the effectiveness of an organization in achieving its intended goals.
Bartels, J., Pruyn, A., de Jong, M., & Joustra, I. (2007). Multiple organizational identification levels and the impact of perceived external prestige and communication climate. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 28(2), 173–190. doi:
Elstak, M. N., Bhatt, M., Van Riel, C. B. M., Pratt, M. G., & Berens, G. A. J. M. (2015). Organizational identification during a merger: The role of self-enhancement and uncertainty reduction motives during a major organizational change. Journal of Management Studies, 52(1), 32–62. doi:
Frandsen, S. (2012). Organizational image, identification, and cynical distance: Prestigious professionals in a low-prestige organization. Management Communication Quarterly, 26(3), 351–376. doi:
Smidts, A., Pruyn, A. T. H., & van Riel, C. (2001). The impact of employee communication and perceived external prestige on organizational identification. Academy of Management Journal, 49(5), 1051–1062.