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2019 International Association for Conflict Management Conference

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The Help-Decliner’s Dilemma: How to Decline Requests for Help at Work without Hurting One’s Image

Help-giving, defined as providing assistance or support to others, enhances the impression others have of oneself at work. Yet, some scholars have warned of the perils of engaging in help-giving. Agreeing to too many requests can result in overload, decreased well-being, and decreased task performance because individuals have limited time. As such, potential helpers may sometimes need to decline to the dismay of help-seekers. In this paper, we argue that help-decliners face a dilemma: How can they decline a request for help without besmirching the impression fellow organizational members have of them and subsequently diminishing those members’ desire to interact with them in the future? We explore this help-decliner’s dilemma across four studies, and find that the best way to decline is to defer fulfilling the request to the future. In doing so, we introduce a more balanced understanding of helping that accounts for the challenges help-decliners face.

Basima Tewfik
The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
United States

Timothy Kundro
The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
United States

Philip Tetlock
The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
United States

 


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