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The Power in Helping Others: Helping Behaviors as Power Signals at the Workplace
We examined the effect of helping and its type (autonomy- vs. dependency-oriented) provided to a coworker on helper’s perceived power. Underlying mechanisms were examined: (1) the perceived threat, (2) liking of the helper, and (3) the helper’s perceived competency. Two experiments manipulated the type of help provided (Studies 1 & 2) and the threat situation (Study 2). Results supported the predicted effect on the helper’s perceived power, as well as on the willingness to afford the helper power. Although providing autonomy- vs. dependency-oriented help did not affect the helper’s perceived power, it did increase willingness to afford power. In addition, liking of the helper was the strongest mediator in these relationships. 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.