An analysis of the behavioral consequences of helping others at work

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This study attempts to determine how helping others at work daily can lead to behavioral changes and over time how helping others at work is a depleting experience that will eventually lead to a reduction in how much one helps others and instead engages in political behaviors aimed at helping oneself.

The study starts with defining Organization Citizenship Behaviors (OCB’s), which are discretionary acts that promote organization function by supporting the social and psychological environment in which task performance occurs. Research has shown that these OCB’s not only benefit coworkers and broader organizational goals, but the individuals who engage in them also receive personal benefits such as more favorable performance reviews, better positive work attitudes, and increasedhelp from coworkers.

However, despite all the well documented benefits of engaging in OCB’s, researchers have recently started to note a dark side to such behaviors, including negative consequences to the actor. Particularly research has shown that it can have negative consequences for personal well-being, relationships at home, and overall career outcomes. OCB research at first was more directed toward interpersonal relationships but over time the research has shifted focus to intraindividual studies as there are substantial and systematic‚ uctuations in employees’ episodic, ormomentary, levels of OCB (Scott, Matta, & Koopman, 2016, p. 2).

Mostrecent studies consider how OCB’s vary on a day to day basis. The averageamount of variance of OCB directed towards others at work (48.2%) was higher thanthe variance of OCB directed towards the organization as a whole (36.0%). Thedifference in variation can be accounted for because individuals usually havemore opportunities to help their coworkers every day at work then helping theorganization as a whole. Studies also consider how employee resource levelsaffect employees engaging in OCB’s.

For example, employees who felt recoveredand refreshed in the morning were more likely to engage in OCB’s for the day. Thisis directly related to the sleep quality of the employees. On the flipsideemployees who felt depleted or tired were less likely to help their fellowemployees at work that day. Research has also showed that OCB’s have both a bright anddark side. Engaging in altruistic behaviors served as a means of positivelyenhancing one’s mood by increasing positive emotions. On the other sidenegative side effects associated with OCB’s include consuming personalresources and reduced wellbeing in terms of job satisfaction and commitment.Helping others at work produced feelings of depletion, suggesting that helpingacts represent an activity that consumes resources at an ever increasing rate( Lanaj et al. 2016).

Now this study defines a self-regulatoryframework for daily helping behaviors and how they translate directly intobehavioral outcomes. Ego Depletion Theory states that individuals have alimited pool of resources that are consumed when engaging in acts that require self-control.These resources are used to control thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Whenindividuals deplete all their resources it becomes more difficult to resistengaging in behaviors that do not serve their interests or goals. Beingdepleted and tired can even lead to counterproductive and deleterious workbehaviors.

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