In organizations where work is complex, dynamic and interdependent, maintaining an environment where employees offer help to one another is essential for organizational effectiveness. This research is aimed at understanding the antecedent motives underlying task-related interpersonal helping.
The research took an atypical approach by asking employees directly to explain in their own words why they would, or would not, help co-workers with work-related problems. Content analysis yielded five categories of motives for helping. The qualitative motive categories were able to explain variance in quantitative scales assessing respondents’ affect, attitudes, organizational perceptions, and demographics.
Employees who gave altruistic reasons for helping (i.e., helping was a personal value or a contribution to the team) reported performing more helping behaviors, expressed greater organizational commitment, and perceived more organizational justice than did employees who expected reciprocity for helping, or whose help was contingent.
No existing theory of helping explains the total collection of motives identified in this research. We encourage researchers to develop integrated theories capable of explaining the totality of motives for task-related helping. Our research identities several essential parameters of such integrated theories and provides guidance for carrying out the task of theory integration.
This phenomenological research is the only empirical investigations into task-related helping based on respondents’ own reasons for helping. It also is one of the few to incorporate both qualitative and quantitative methodologies.
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The authors thank Dr. Marcus Crede and Dr. Dianna Stone for their comments and suggestions on this research
Order of authorship is random. Contributions are equal.
An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Southern Management Association. November, 2008, St. Pete Beach, FL.
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Taber, T.D., Deosthali, K. Analysis of Self-Reported Motives for Task-Related Helping: Implications for an Integrated Theory of Helping. J Bus Psychol 29, 343–366 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-013-9327-4
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