It Doesn’t Pay To Be The ‘Good Guy’ At Work

Chasing the ‘Employee Of The Month’ award at work might not be worth it after all!

Are you a friendly and generous co-worker? Are you always willing to help out your fellow employees, whether it’s in the meeting room, at your desk or in the canteen? You might think that you’re doing a great job making friends with your colleagues, but science seems to suggest that being a do-gooder at the workplace can actually be harmful for you!

The Study

According to this study by researchers from the University of Guelph in Canada, it was found that cooperative behaviour attracted punishment most often in groups whose members compete with each other. Published in the journal Psychological Science in April 2018, the study went on to state that this was the case even if punishing the do-gooder resulted in a decrease in benefits for the entire group, including the person doing the punishing!

"Most of the time we like the cooperators, the good guys. We like it when the bad guys get their comeuppance, and when non-cooperators are punished," said lead author Pat Barclay, a psychology professor at the University of Guelph in a press release. "But some of the time, cooperators are the ones that get punished. People will hate on the really good guys. This pattern has been found in every culture in which it has been looked at," he added.

Why Does This Happen?

According to Barclay, it’s because some people like to bring cooperators down a peg, especially if they think the good guys make them look bad in the workplace, boardroom or a similar setting. It helps them dominate in other aspects of work life, he said. Explaining further, he said that being suspicious, jealous or hostile toward those who seem better or nicer or holier than us appears to run deep in the psychological makeup of humans, which is what led him to conduct the study in the first place.

So How Should You Behave At Work?

Although the study’s findings seem to suggest that you shouldn’t be a nice guy any more, the researchers did reveal an important exception. According to them, if you cooperate with your co-workers, they’ll cooperate with you, if there’s no competition in the work environment. The anti-social behaviour towards a colleague with good intentions only seems to surface when the efforts of the do-gooder might paint the rest of the workforce in a bad light.

If you’ve been trying your best to help out at your workplace only to be met with hostility, this might be the reason!

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