Unwanted help is frustrating, study finds

0 9
Follow PsyPost on Google News

Recent research from Germany has found that employees who received unwanted help from coworkers and supervisors experienced higher frustration related to their needs for competence and autonomy. Frustration of the need for autonomy led to higher affective rumination after work and less psychological detachment from work. The research was published in Stress and Health.

Modern society demands that humans spend a significant portion of their lives at work. As a result, workplace events can greatly influence an individual’s overall well-being and mental health. One crucial factor in determining the well-being of both employees and organizations is the availability of support.

However, it is the perception of support availability that is associated with health-promoting effects. The actual receipt of support can have both negative and positive impacts on health, depending on how the support is offered and received.

This includes whether help and support are wanted or unwanted. Unwanted help occurs when support is imposed without the recipient’s consent, or when unsolicited advice is given. Studies suggest that receiving unrequested help can have detrimental effects on the recipient’s well-being.

Study author Anika D. Schulz and her colleagues wanted to examine the hypothesis that being offered unwanted help by supervisors or peers contributes to the frustration of psychological needs for competence and autonomy. In turn, this frustration would lead to affective rumination and impede psychological detachment from work.

Psychological detachment from work is the mental disconnection from job-related thoughts and activities during non-work hours, allowing individuals to fully engage in leisure and personal life. This detachment is important as it helps individuals rest and recover psychologically, reducing stress, preventing burnout, and enhancing overall well-being and work-life balance. Affective rumination involves continuously thinking about work-related issues in an emotionally charged and stress-inducing way.

The researchers conducted two surveys to examine the relationship between unwanted help, psychological needs, detachment from work, and affective rumination.

In the first survey, 279 employees participated. They worked an average of 39 hours per week, with a mean job tenure of 20 years. About 27% held leadership positions, and their average age was 42-43 years.

These individuals completed assessments of unwanted help (e.g. ‘In the last two weeks, did your coworkers or supervisors try to help you regardless of whether you wanted it or not?”), of the extent to which coworkers and supervisors gave help in an uncivil way (four items from the Workplace Incivility Scale), appreciation in the workplace (selected items from the Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire), competence and autonomy frustration (items from the Basic Psychological Need Satisfaction and Frustration Scale, and from the Work-Related Basic Need Satisfaction Scale), affective rumination (the Work-Related Rumination Questionnaire), and psychological detachment from work (items from the Recovery Experience Questionnaire, e.g., “During time after work I forget about work”).

The second study involved two waves of data collection, two weeks apart. Initially, 194 employees participated, but only 165 completed both surveys. The participants’ average age was 45 years, with 67% being male. Their average job tenure was 12 years. These participants completed the same assessments as those in the first survey.

Results of the first study showed that participants reporting more unwanted help indeed tended to feel more frustration of their needs for autonomy and competence. When considering the incivility of the help, it was found that the frustration was due to the unwanted nature of the help itself, not how it was delivered.

The second study confirmed the link between unwanted help and the frustration of psychological needs. Participants being offered unwanted help tended to feel greater frustration of their needs for autonomy and competence.

The study authors tested a statistical model proposing that unwanted help led to greater frustration of needs for competence and autonomy. These frustrations, in turn led to higher rumination, and lower psychological detachment. Results showed that unwanted help might indeed lead to higher rumination and less psychological detachment by frustrating the need for autonomy, but not by frustrating the need for competence.

“We discovered that the offer of unwanted help is linked to psychological needs frustration, particularly in terms of competence and autonomy. Furthermore, our findings highlight that autonomy frustration resulting from offered unwanted help does not quickly dissipate; it has effects over weeks, leading to increased post‐work rumination and hindering psychological detachment from work,” the study authors concluded.

“These results suggest that offered unwanted help as one facet of potentially unhelpful support has adverse effects on its recipients. For help providers, it seems advisable to only offer help when it is wanted and to do so thoughtfully and skillfully to protect the basic psychological needs of help recipients as effectively as possible.”

The study sheds light on the relationship between unwanted help in the workplace and well-being indicators. However, the study design does not allow for definitive cause-and-effect conclusions. Additionally, the study did not account for whether the help recipient ultimately accepted or rejected the unwanted help.

The paper, “When help is not wanted: Frustrated needs and poor after‐ work recovery as consequences of unwanted help at work,” was authored by Anika D. Schulz, Doris Fay, Ina Schöllgen, and Johannes Wendsche.

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.