Magazine article USA TODAY

Status Affects Which Coworkers Get Help

Magazine article USA TODAY

Status Affects Which Coworkers Get Help

Article excerpt

Are employees more likely to help coworkers above or beneath them in the corporate pecking order? A study in the journal Academy of Management Discoveries suggests that may be the wrong question to ask. Researchers found that workers are most likely to help colleagues who are moderately distant from themselves in status--both above and below them.

The results offer a new way to think about how status affects workplace relationships, indicates coauthor Robert Lount, a human resources and management specialist. "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."

The study did not examine why colleagues who were moderately distant in status were most likely to help each other, but study leader Sarah Doyle, a doctoral business student, says it may be related to how workers perceive their own status within the company. "Someone near you in status poses more of a threat. The help you provide could help them pass you in status, or make it more difficult for you to pass them. …

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