Sometimes people we work side by side with face difficulties – job related or personal ones. And the first thing we think about is supporting them. It seems to be an infallible method of making the colleague feel better but don’t be surprised when he rejects you quite rudely. Here are two experiments that explain why such situations happen and how it’s better to act.
Should we help our co-workers?
Since trying to assist a person every time when we see him/her upset is not an option, San Francisco researchers suggest to always be willing to support a colleague but don’t be intrusive. They looked through more than 140 experiments within 8 months and evaluated them using multiple measurements, ScienceDaily.com reported.
The lead author of the study Michael Mathieu intended to find out the extent to which the participants were content with their job, responsibilities, and co-workers.
The researchers concluded that helping a co-worker to do some job-related tasks has the same impact as supporting him emotionally and giving a shoulder to cry on.
Another important thing Mathieu concluded is that it’s not necessary to be persistent at giving a hand – just make sure your support is available for that person at any time.
The author of the research states that not all the assistance is a good help. For example, it may be offensive for your colleague to accept the help he didn’t ask for.
Interestingly, an unwanted support from a boss is almost never rejected, which is more than can be said for co-workers.
So, be polite, discreet, and ready to give a hand but don’t impose your assistance – otherwise, you risk being turned down.
Mind your business: proactive and reactive assistance
There’s another study which shows that being too caring towards your colleagues can play terrible tricks.
A group of researchers from Michigan studied this topic evaluating 54 workers from around the US.
The participants of the experiment were aged from 21 to 60 years and worked on average 40 hours a week at different kinds of industries (manufacturing, health care, educational sector, etc.).
Russell Johnson and his team supervised the selected 54 people for nearly 8 months with the view to explore the ways people interact with each other, treat problems of co-workers and what the consequences of such engagements are.
As the author explains, there are two types of help: proactive and reactive.
The main difference is that the first type is an unwanted assistance, and the other type is a requested one.
- For example, if you are rather energetic and trying to help others all the time, you are supporting proactively.
- If you assist people only when they ask you for it, you’re reactively helping.
The results of the research demonstrate that people who tend to offer assistance inappropriately aren’t aware of the details of the co-worker’s problem – so they can’t be of any help. At the same time, those who are always ready to give a hand but aren’t too intrusive can improve the mental well-being of a colleague who needs a hand. It’s better to mind your own business, not to look for other people’s troubles, and waste your precious time trying to solve them.
Acting proactively can have a negative impact on the helper himself. They rarely receive any gratitude from co-workers they are trying to assist. Such an attitude makes people feel discouraged and unwilling to be productive at work.
Sometimes depressed people don’t express any gratitude right away – it takes time to process what you have done to them. However, in most cases, you feel incapable of dealing with your problems independently when you are offered an unwanted support.
The point is, helping people is noble and commendable – but wait until you are asked for it.