Monday, June 20, 2016

Study Reveals How to Choose the Best Person to Ask for Help

Next time you're looking for some help at work, you may not want to depend on a close colleague.

A new study from The Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business finds that employees are more likely to help co-workers who are "moderately distant" from themselves in status -- both above and below them.

"A lot of attention has been focused on the direction of the relationship -- which employee is above or below the other in the hierarchy and how that affects their work together. But status distance may be more important in some circumstances than whether your colleague is above or below you," says Robert Lount, co-author of the study and associate professor of management and human resources.

Why? He explains that someone near another worker in status poses more of a threat, and any help provided could help one person pass up another.

At the same time, those who are far above or below you in status could mean they have to put in a lot more time and effort to help you, and that could end up hurting their own job performance.

That's why the "sweet spot" for getting help from someone is the person who doesn't see you as much of a threat but won't have to do lots of extra work to help you. Also, those who help you may be looking for a way to demonstrate a willingness to cooperate with colleagues.

Overall, the researchers found that co-workers are willing to lend a hand and aren't just being stingy with their help. "It is more about who are you most likely to go out of your way to help," Lount says.

For managers, Lount says the lesson is that they might want to avoid doing things like asking the most recent hire to train a new employee. "If that relative newcomer is worried about his or her status in the organization, they may be less than helpful with this new person who could surpass them," he says. "Someone who is moderately successful, but not the top performer on the team, might be the most willing to help."

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