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Helping You Help Me: The Role of Diagnostic (In)Congruence in the Helping Process within Organizations

58 Pages Posted: 4 Jul 2013  

Colin M. Fisher

Boston University

Julianna Pillemer

Harvard Business School

Teresa M. Amabile

Harvard University - Entrepreneurial Management Unit

Date Written: July 2, 2013

Abstract

Through an inductive, multi-method field study at a major design firm, we investigated the helping process in project work and how that process affects the success of a helping episode, as perceived by help-givers and/or -receivers. We used daily diary entries and weekly interviews from four project teams, and a separate sample of critical incident interviews, to induce process models of successful and unsuccessful helping episodes. We found that, in unsuccessful episodes, help-givers and -receivers maintained incongruent expectations and project understandings throughout the episode, which we call diagnostic incongruence. In contrast, the parties in successful episodes engaged in aligning practices that fostered shared expectations and project understandings (i.e., diagnostic congruence). Importantly, aligning practices in successful episodes occurred before or at the beginning of episodes. We also found that people’s assessments of unsuccessful episodes were often marked by intense emotionality, which sometimes led them to disregard whether the helping resulted in instrumental progress. We discuss the implications of our process model for theory and practice.

Keywords: Helping, Prosocial Behavior, Labor Process, Knowledge Management, Qualitative Methods, Field Study

Suggested Citation

Fisher, Colin M. and Pillemer, Julianna and Amabile, Teresa M., Helping You Help Me: The Role of Diagnostic (In)Congruence in the Helping Process within Organizations (July 2, 2013). Harvard Business School Entrepreneurial Management Working Paper No. 14-003. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2288795 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2288795

Colin M. Fisher

Boston University ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

Julianna Pillemer

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Teresa M. Amabile (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Entrepreneurial Management Unit ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02163
United States

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