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Don’t offer to help your co-workers without an invitation – it’s ‘toxic,’ study says

New workplace research from Michigan State University found that when it comes to offering your assistance at work, it’s best to mind your business.
New workplace research from Michigan State University found that when it comes to offering your assistance at work, it’s best to mind your business. Michigan State University via PxHere

Do you ever see a colleague working and think, “Maybe they could use a little help?” Or do you ever glance at someone’s work and say to yourself, “Boy, I could do this better, maybe I should tell them what they need to work on?”

Well, shut up, scientists say.

That’s according to new research published by Michigan State University researchers in the Journal of Applied Psychology in October, which looked at how coworkers felt when they gave or got help from their colleagues.

The scientists found that people who were given assistance without asking for it took blows to their self-esteem and to their feelings of security in the workplace.

“Right now, there’s a lot of stress on productivity in the workplace, and to be a real go-getter and help everyone around you,” said study author Russell Johnson in a news release. “But, it’s not necessarily the best thing when you go out looking for problems and spending time trying to fix them.”

The scientists conducted a multi-part study, surveying more than 700 people about how grateful they felt recipients were about receiving their help -- and how they reacted to help from others.

When people volunteered their help to others without being asked, it can have “toxic effects, especially on the helper,” Johnson said in a news release. “They often don’t have a clear understanding of recipients’ problems and issues, thus they receive less gratitude for it.”

The person getting helped, meanwhile, can be made to feel incompetent and “feel less motivated at work the next day,” he added. “If people are constantly coming up to me at work and asking if I want their help, it could have an impact on my esteem and become frustrating. I’m not going to feel inclined to thank the person who tried to help me because I didn’t ask for it.”

The best thing to do?

Sit back, keep your eyes on your own work and wait. If someone needs help, they’ll ask — and employers can boost the system by encouraging coworkers to thank each other when someone really does ask for help, the researchers said in their paper.

Angela Cacace left a successful career in barbering to start her own construction business and enrolled in the Building Construction Technologies program at Central Carolina Community College (CCCC). On the first day of class, she was surprised to

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