Helping Others at Work Without Burning Out

To foster a sustainable culture of workplace helping, organizations should prioritize self-compassion and effective strategies for healthy collaboration.

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Creating a culture of helping in the workplace is beneficial for both organizations and employees. Companies are more productive and profitable when their employees help one another, and research has shown the many benefits of workplace helping, including higher morale and job satisfaction for both the help provider and receiver.

However, despite their best intentions, employees may sometimes fail to help one another due to a range of factors, including a lack of technical skills and social connections, time famine, and burnout. Many employees want to pitch in for their colleagues but may simply lack the time or energy to successfully follow through with their helping efforts.

We know that companies run better when employees help one another, but we know less about how helping failures affect both the organization and the employees involved. Research on workplace failures in general suggests that employees don’t always handle them well. Oftentimes, they lose confidence in their abilities and may become discouraged from trying to help again in the future.

Our recent research suggests that self-compassion may be key to navigating these helping failures. Self-compassion involves a mindset of patience and understanding toward ourselves, coupled with a balanced approach to our emotions and a reminder that everyone fails from time to time. Science has shown us that self-compassionate employees experience better performance and less burnout, among other benefits. As researchers, we were curious to test whether self-compassion plays a similarly beneficial role when employees face helping failures. (See “Examples of Failed Helping From the Research.”)

We conducted four studies that used both experimental and survey-based approaches to examine the effects of self-compassion on helping failures.


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