People prone to feeling guilty are amongst the hardest workers, a new study finds.
Not only that but people prone to feeling guilty are also highly ethical and are less likely to take advantage of other people’s skills to get paid more.
The results come from research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, in which psychologists carried out 5 studies to test the effects of feeling guilty on work performance (Wiltermuth & Cohen, 2014).
Dr. Scott S. Wiltermuth, the study’s first author, said:
“Because of this concern for the impact of their actions on others’ welfare, highly guilt-prone people often outwork their less guilt-prone colleagues, demonstrate more effective leadership and contribute more to the success of the teams and partnerships in which they are involved.”
Set against these advantages, though, guilt-prone people may avoid working with others they see as more competent than themselves.
Dr. Wiltermuth said:
“It may come as a surprise, but our findings demonstrate that people who lack competence may not always seek out competence in others when choosing work partners.”
The reason was that guilt-prone people were afraid of letting others down.
In other studies, guilt-probe people were also more likely to want compensation which reflected their performance, rather than trying to get paid more by free-riding off more talented individuals.
Dr. Wiltermuth said:
“Guilt proneness reduces the incidence of unethical behavior.
Highly guilt-prone people are conscientious.
They are less likely to free-ride on others’ expertise, and they will sacrifice financial gain out of concern about how their actions would influence others’ welfare.”
Dr. Wiltermuth concluded:
“Managers could try to ensure that highly guilt-prone people are creating the partnerships and perhaps even assuming leadership roles on teams, despite highly guilt-prone people’s fear that by accepting these leadership positions they might be putting themselves into position to let their teammates down.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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