March 12, 2009

Consistent contributors not ‘suckers’

The prevailing wisdom that consistent contributors are suckers because slackers will exploit them isn't true, a Canadian and U.S. researcher say.

A study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, says that a person can influence a group to become more efficient in achieving its goals by making cooperative, collective behavior seem acceptable and appropriate and thereby encouraging others to act similarly.

Mark Weber of the University of Toronto and J. Keith Murnighan of Northwestern University said the findings challenge assumptions made by rational choice theorists that people should cooperate very little in situations with a known end-point when there are short-term incentives to act selfishly.

It was generally accepted that the unconditional 'always-cooperate' strategy was a dumb strategy, Weber and Murnighan said in a statement. The prevailing wisdom in some scholarly circles is that consistent contributors shouldn't exist, that if they do they're 'suckers' and that people will exploit them.

However, the study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, consistently found cooperative workers set a tone and their clear, consistent behavior elicits cooperation and once a group of people cooperate with each other, they seem to enjoy cooperating -- increasing productivity.

Groups, or workplaces, become more productive, more economically efficient and people enjoy being a part of them, the researchers said.