A Study Finds That Helping Your Coworkers Is Counterproductive, Unless They Specifically Ask

  • Offering help creates a nice work environment, but before you help, ask your peers if they need it.

  • A study found that offering unsolicited help affects the receiver.

According to a study, helping colleagues is counterproductive unless they ask for It
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I have the best coworkers in the world. When I see someone that needs help, I’m the kind of person who readily offers to help them solve their problem. However, I’ve discovered that my goodwill may hurt more than help my peers. Let me explain.

Experts say: If they dont ask for help, dont help. Researcher Anika Schulz led a study for the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Berlin to determine the relationship between unsolicited help from co-workers and supervisors and the satisfaction of psychological needs for feeling competent at work.

In other words, the researchers wanted to know what really happens when you help your coworkers even though they didn't ask. Are you really helping them? Or are making them feel like they don’t know how to do their jobs?

Belittling personal accomplishments. Work is an essential part of individual and psychological development because it’s where we put into practice all the skills we’ve learned over the years and prove our worth as professionals. No matter what kind of job it is, work development is a significant component of personal self-improvement. Who hasn’t felt proud of themselves for reaching a personal milestone at work, learning a new task, and being able to do it on their own for the first time?

According to this study, the unwanted intervention of a third party interferes with this process and overshadows an individual's achievements. As such, you end up no longer seeing these processes as self-improvement because you feel that you're not good enough to it by yourself. 

Helping not only ruins self-esteem on the job but also in other situations. Schulz and her colleagues found that these actions to help, however well-intentioned, can even affect what scientists refer to as psychological detachment from work. “Autonomy frustration resulting from offered unwanted help does not quickly dissipate; it has effects over weeks, leading to increased post-work rumination and hindering psychological detachment from work,” the authors stated.

This means the anxiety caused by the unsolicited help made it difficult for the employees who received it to disconnect from work at the end of the day. In this way, the unsolicited aid also affected them psychologically in their free time.

It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t offer help to those who need it. However, it never hurts to politely ask, “Do you need help?” And if your coworker says that they do, go ahead and help. I’m sure that person will thank you for it. In the end, your actions will also contribute to helping them feel a little more fulfilled when they can do it for themselves.

Image | Unsplash (Resume Genius)

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