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The Power in Helping Others: Helping Behaviors as Power Signals at the Workplace
Keywords: power perception, helping, experiments
Abstract: Two experiments examined the effect of helping and its type (autonomy- vs. dependency-oriented) provided to a coworker on helper’s perceived power and the willingness to afford the helper power. Underlying mechanism of benevolence-based trust was tested. Results supported the predicted effect on the helper’s perceived power, as well as on power affordance. Although providing autonomy- vs. dependency-oriented help did not affect the helper’s perceived power, it did increase willingness to afford power. In addition, benevolence-based trust was higher for helper who provided autonomy-oriented help and mediated the relationships between type of helping and power affordance. The findings shed light on a subtle pathway to signal power at the workplace, suggesting that those motivated to attain power can achieve it through teaching their peers how to solve the problem, rather than giving complete solutions.