Nav: Home

What do your co-workers really think of you?

February 22, 2017

Everyday in the workplace, colleagues actively compete for a limited amount of perks, including raises, promotions, bonuses and recognition. But new research from Washington University in St. Louis shows that, more than often than not, people fall short in determining which co-workers might be trying to edge them out on the job.

"We looked at whether people understood what other people in the workplace thought of them," said Hillary Anger Elfenbein, professor of organizational behavior. "You tend to know who likes you. But, for negative feelings, including competitiveness, people had no clue."

Elfenbein and her co-authors, Noah Eisenkraft from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Shirli Kopelman from the University of Michigan, ran two different studies during the course of their research, recently published in the journal Psychological Science. In the first, they surveyed salespeople at a Midwestern car dealership where competition was both normal and encouraged. The second study included surveys from more than 200 undergraduate students in 56 separate project groups. All were asked similar questions about their co-workers, and what they assumed those people thought of them. When the responses about competition were analyzed, the results were striking: While there were outliers, they completely canceled out.

In other words, co-workers have no clue about their competitive cohorts.

"Some people show their competitiveness, some people you can tell have it out for you, but others have it out for you and act like they're your close friend," Elfenbein said. "Those two effects wash out, and people on average have zero idea about who feels competitively toward them."

The researchers offer two main reasons for the disconnect: First, people tend to mask outward feelings of competitiveness toward others in an effort to be polite. Also, the concept of reciprocity played a role.

"For liking, reciprocation is a good thing," Elfenbein said. "You keep dates, you give gifts, you have shared, positive experiences. But to get the benefits of competition, such as promotions or perks, you don't need it to be reciprocated. And when you don't get that feeling back, it's hard to gauge who's truly competing against you."

For a manager in the workplace who wants a strong and cohesive team, transparency and uncrossable lines appear to be the key in maintaining the balance, the researchers said.

"You want to promote a climate where there is friendly competition," Elfenbein said. "At the car dealership, everybody knows they are competing against each other. Entire salaries can be based on performance. But if you create a climate where there are boundaries you don't cross, you can make space for mutual healthy competition to be rewarded."

As for the individual in the workplace who fears being blindsided by co-workers?

"You need to pay more attention to what people do rather than what they say," Elfenbein said. "When people are too polite to say something to your face, you need a good, strong network that will let you know what other people really think."
-end-
Elfenbein may be reached for interviews at helfenbein@wustl.edu

Washington University in St. Louis

Related Climate Articles:

Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance
A new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.
Was that climate change?
A new four-step 'framework' aims to test the contribution of climate change to record-setting extreme weather events.
It's more than just climate change
Accurately modeling climate change and interactive human factors -- including inequality, consumption, and population -- is essential for the effective science-based policies and measures needed to benefit and sustain current and future generations.
Uncertainties related to climate engineering limit its use in curbing climate change
Climate engineering refers to the systematic, large-scale modification of the environment using various climate intervention techniques.
Public holds polarized views about climate change and trust in climate scientists
There are gaping divisions in Americans' views across every dimension of the climate debate, including causes and cures for climate change and trust in climate scientists and their research, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
Incubating climate change
A group of James Cook University scientists led by Emeritus Professor Ross Alford has designed and built an inexpensive incubator that could boost research into how animals and plants will be affected by climate change.
And the Oscar goes to ... climate change
New research finds that Tweets and Google searches about climate change set new record highs after Leonardo DiCaprio's Academy Awards acceptance speech, suggesting celebrity advocacy for social issues on a big stage can motivate popular engagement.
Cod and climate
Researchers use the North Atlantic Oscillation as a predictive tool for managing an iconic fishery.
What hibernating toads tell us about climate
The ability to predict when toads come out of hibernation in southern Canada could provide valuable insights into the future effects of climate change on a range of animals and plants.
Maryland climate and health report identifies state's vulnerabilities to climate change
A new report by the University of Maryland School of Public Health and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene details the impacts of climate change on the health of Marylanders now and in the future.

Related Climate Reading:

The Climate Chronicles: Inconvenient Revelations You Won't Hear From Al Gore--And Others
by Joe Bastardi (Author)

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change (The Politically Incorrect Guides)
by Marc Morano (Author)

Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know®
by Joseph Romm (Author)

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate
by Naomi Klein (Author)

A Global Warming Primer: Answering Your Questions About The Science, The Consequences, and The Solutions
by Jeffrey Bennett (Author)

How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate
by Andrew J. Hoffman (Author)

The Thinking Person's Guide to Climate Change
by Robert Henson (Author)

Climate (Science Readers: Content and Literacy)
by Teacher Created Materials (Author)

Dire Predictions, 2nd Edition: Understanding Climate Change
by Michael E. Mann (Author), Lee R. Kump (Author)

Lyme: The First Epidemic of Climate Change
by Mary Beth Pfeiffer (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

The Right To Speak
Should all speech, even the most offensive, be allowed on college campuses? And is hearing from those we deeply disagree with ... worth it? This hour, TED speakers explore the debate over free speech. Guests include recent college graduate Zachary Wood, political scientist Jeffrey Howard, novelist Elif Shafak, and journalist and author James Kirchick.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#486 Volcanoes
This week we're talking volcanoes. Because there are few things that fascinate us more than the amazing, unstoppable power of an erupting volcano. First, Jessica Johnson takes us through the latest activity from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii to help us understand what's happening with this headline-grabbing volcano. And Janine Krippner joins us to highlight some of the lesser-known volcanoes that can be found in the USA, the different kinds of eruptions we might one day see at them, and how damaging they have the potential to be. Related links: Kilauea status report at USGS A beginner's guide to Hawaii's otherworldly...