Could helping others hurt your career?

Could helping others hurt your career?

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Sep 14, 2010
By dvm360.com staff

Be unselfish: Be unpopular. It doesn’t sound logical, but that’s what Washington State University social psychologist Craig Parks discovered in four separate studies. The research showed that teammates don’t appreciate those who go above and beyond. In fact, employees put these selfless co-workers at the bottom of their list of people they want to work with. Why? Resentment. Team members worry about working beside someone who makes them look—or feel—bad. Suspicion of ulterior motives is another reason co-workers would prefer not to work with super go-getters.

In Parks’ studies, introductory psychology students were put into groups of five and given points. They were then instructed to exchange these points for meal vouchers. What participants didn’t know was the four other people in their group were ploys, instructed to either give away all or few of their points. During the exercise, most of the real participants made even trades—a point or two for a voucher.

At the end of the exercise, the students were polled on which teammates they’d prefer to work with again. As expected, the students said they would not like to work with the greedy participants who traded little or no points. However, students also said they wouldn’t want to work with those who gave in excess—even when it benefited the overall welfare of the group.

How do you strike the right balance between helping others and yourself? Check out these related links for tips.