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The Do-Gooder Effect

Friday, July 27, 2018

Everyone says they’d rather work with a nice person than a jerk; however, what people claim to want and how they actually behave can be completely at odds. Everyone praises kindness and cooperation, but oftentimes good deeds in the workplace are met with ridicule, backstabbing, and general nastiness. According to a recent Canadian study, our stated ideals and real-life actions in the workplace fail to match up in this regard for a counterintuitive reason: Sometimes niceness can come across as threatening. "Most of the time, we like the cooperators, the good guys," psychology professor and study coordinator Pat Barclay said. However, he noted that when people find themselves in competitive environments like workplaces, roles reverse. "People will hate on the really good guys. This pattern has been found in every culture in which it has been looked at." People tend to lash out at thoughtful, helpful individuals because they feel those traits in others reflect poorly on them. When asked how to push back against this “do-gooder effect,” Barclay says, "It might help to turn the tables on the criticizers: Point out that they're just attacking to prevent themselves from looking bad." Additionally, he said it's important to not place yourself in this position to begin with. Simply put, if someone reacts poorly to an offer to help, quit offering to help that person.

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