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Guilt = Better Workers? Yep, according to a study.

Jan 4

Written by:
1/4/2011 1:16 PM  RssIcon

IIn the new Harvard Business Review a study on workers and how "guilt" affects them makes for interesting reading. Professor Francis Flynn of Stanford studied workers who had a tendency to feel guilt. What he found is probably the opposite of what you and I would expect. He found that the more guilt-ridden workers had better:

  • Work ethics
  • Job performance
  • Leadership ability
  • Willingness to help others
  • Commitment to their employee
  • Ability to see the big picture

In a follow-up study he found that the more guilt, the more commitment! This doesn't seem to make sense, yet there it is. And as I thought about this I realized that the word "guilt" may be too negative, and maybe the word "responsible" would be better. If a worker feels responsible the work, etc. may improve. If he/she takes ownership of the job, and feels that responsibility, yes, the points listed above do make sense. In future studies the author plans to study how guilt interacts with staying late at work, putting in more time on projects, and home life. Do you teach from a sense of guilt? Hope not. But do you teach with a sense of responsibility, and know it is on your shoulders? Bet you do. guilty....and responsible. Makes you the best.

The study is not available online, but can be found in the “Guilt-Ridden People Make Great Leaders” – An Interview with Francis Flynn in Harvard Business Review, January/February 2011 (Vol. 89, #1-2, p. 30-31), no e-link available

Dr. Dan


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