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Study Finds Morning Teamwork Leads to Afternoon Selfishness

Teamwork. It's what makes the workplace work. But a new study finds helping our co-workers too much in the morning can lead to a lack of teamwork in the afternoon!


Researchers at Michigan State University found that "helpful" employee behaviors doled out in the early hours of the work day can come with a dark side. Namely, we feel like we've already done our "helpful" bit for the day as afternoon rolls around, and it's time to focus on ourselves. We're tired, we might be running behind after helping others, and we simply don't have any more mental bandwidth for our co-worker's questions.

Could you go ask somebody else for a change? Thanks. As Psys.org reports:

"The increase in mental fatigue from helping coworkers in the morning led employees to reduce their helping behaviors in the afternoon and, perhaps more interestingly, they engaged in more self-serving political behaviors in the afternoon as well," said [Russell] Johnson, associate professor of management in MSU's Broad College of Business. "They switched from being other-oriented in the morning to being selfish in the afternoon."

Johnson and colleagues studied 91 full-time employees over 10 consecutive workdays (participants completed two surveys a day - morning and afternoon - on their workplace experiences). While previous research has noted the "dark side" of helping others on an individual's well-being and performance implications, Johnson said, this study is the first to explore the downstream effect on political behavior.

In other words: Help you once at 9 a.m., shame on you. Help you twice at 2 p.m., shame on me. Now it makes sense why our co-worker, who was so happy and helpful first thing this morning, isn't hearing our desperate cries for help as quitting time nears.

via GIPHY


The researchers do not suggest we turn our backs on teamwork, because it's important to be team players. The researchers simply advise pacing our helpful ways in the mornings, and being more mindful of our mental exhaustion levels as the day begins. If we're starting the day feeling exhausted, then we need to pace our supportive efforts better throughout the day.

And if you need to ask a co-worker for help, then ask early if you're going to ask often.

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