Negative Beliefs About Accepting Coworker Help: Implications for Employee Attitudes, Job Performance, and Reputation

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For more than 30 years, researchers have investigated interpersonal helping in organizations, with much of this work focusing on understanding why employees help their colleagues. Although this is important, it is also critical that employees are willing to accept assistance that is offered by peers. Indeed, helping behavior should only enhance individual and organizational effectiveness if employees are actually willing to accept offers of assistance. Unfortunately, employees may sometimes have reservations about accepting help from their peers. In four studies, we examine the negative beliefs that employees have about accepting help from coworkers. In Study 1, we use inductive research to qualitatively understand why employees accept or decline coworker help. In Study 2, we develop a preliminary, second-order reflective measure of negative beliefs about accepting coworker help that is indicated by the five specific (first-order) reservations about accepting help identified in Study 1—diminished image, reciprocity obligation, self-reliance, coworker mistrust, and coworker incompetence. In Study 3, we refine our scale and demonstrate its convergent, discriminant, and criterion-related validity. Finally, in Study 4, we investigate the consequences of negative beliefs about accepting coworker help. We find that those who hold more negative beliefs are less likely to receive help from peers (and supervisors), report more negative job attitudes, and have lower levels of in-role performance, citizenship behavior, and creativity. Furthermore, employees with more negative beliefs about accepting help from coworkers are seen less favorably by their supervisors. Implications and future research directions are discussed.

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