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Why a cooperative work culture can be bad for star performers

12 April 2017

Wouldn’t it be nice to work in an environment focused on cooperation and solidarity, one that put the needs of the many above those of the few? Sounds great … but collectivism has some surprising downsides, especially if you’re a star performer.

New research in the Journal of Applied Psychology looks at workplace reactions to high performers and their polarising effect on those around them, and shows that in more cooperative climates, hotshots are actually more likely to get a raw deal.

Elizabeth Campbell and her colleagues surveyed 350 hair stylists, mainly women, working within a chain of Taiwanese salons. The researchers were interested in how the most successful stylists were treated by their peers: they identified hotshots by asking managers for performance ratings, and then they surveyed all the staff to find out the benefits and threats they saw in each other, and how much criticism and support they received.

They also asked stylists about their salon’s working climate by asking them how much they agreed with statements like “there is a high level of cooperation between stylists”.

Read more on our Research Digest blog.

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