TEAMWORK & When finances are tight – people are less likely to work together as a team #AMJ

Commentary by Prof. B: This research in the “Academy of Management Journal” points out that when finances are tight, you have to work harder to create unity in a team. Hard economic times naturally pit team members against each other with competitive strategies and resource needs. Therefore be aware that when you encounter recessionary cycles (which this article points out happens multiple times in a career) that you must work extra hard to create cohesion in your team.

Economic Downturns Undermine Workplace Helping by Promoting a Zero-Sum Construal of Success

Authors, Nina Sirola111INSEAD and Marko Pitesa2Singapore Management University, doi: 10.5465/amj.2015.0804ACAD MANAGE J August 1, 2017 vol. 60 no. 4 1339-1359.


Workplace helping is essential to the success of organizations and economies. Given the economic benefits of helping, it seems important that, during difficult economic periods, the amount of helping does not decline. Yet, in this research, we propose and show that it does. We argue that cues that signal the economy is performing poorly prompt a construal that the success of one person implies less success for others. This zero-sum construal of success in turn makes employees less inclined to help. Four studies found evidence consistent with our theory. Study 1 found that worse economic periods are associated with a more zero-sum construal of success, using data from 59,694 respondents surveyed across 51 countries and 17 years and objective indicators of their macroeconomic environments. Studies 2 and 3 experimentally induced the perception that the U.S. economy was performing poorly with a sample of U.S. employees and found that this perception led employees to have a more zero-sum construal of success and made them less inclined to help. Study 4 was an unobtrusive experiment carried out among freelance professionals from 47 countries, and it found that participants’ perception that the economy in their country was in a downturn was associated with a more zero-sum construal of success and less helping behavior. This research demonstrates the importance of bridging the macro–micro divide in organizational sciences and considering the impact of macroeconomic changes on individual employee psychology and behavior.