'Helping co-workers harmful for overall office environment'

'Helping co-workers harmful for overall office environment'

There may be a downside of helping co-workers, say scientists who found that people switch from reaching out to others in the morning to being selfish by the afternoon - creating a toxic work environment.

"The increase in mental fatigue from helping co-workers in the morning led employees to reduce their helping behaviours in the afternoon and, perhaps more interestingly, they engaged in more self-serving political behaviours in the afternoon as well," said Russell Johnson, associate professor at Michigan State University (MSU) in the US.

"They switched from being other-oriented in the morning to being selfish in the afternoon," said Johnson.

Building on their previous research that found helping others at work can be mentally fatiguing for employees, researchers studied about 91 full-time employees over 10 consecutive workdays.

Participants were asked to complete two surveys a day - morning and afternoon - on their workplace experiences.

Researchers found that helping others may not only harm the well-being of the individual, but through the subsequent increase in political behaviour may harm others in the office as well.

"Although we did not identify the consequences of these political behaviours, research has established that political acts from employees can culminate into a toxic work environment with negative well-being and performance consequences," researchers said.

"We are not suggesting workers never help their colleagues in the morning, but that they show discretion, particularly when they start the day already tired or mentally fatigued," they said.

"When they do help coworkers in such circumstances, employers can make sure they get work breaks and lunch periods to help them recover," they added.

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