Does a Help Giver Seek the Help from Others? The Consistency and Licensing Mechanisms and the Role of Leader Respect

Journal of Business Ethics 184 (3):605-626 (2023)
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Abstract

This study adopts an intrapersonal perspective to explore how and when employees shift roles from help giver to help seeker by investigating the relationship between their help-giving and following help-seeking behavior. Based on self-regulation theory, we hypothesize two contradictory psychological processes (i.e., consistency vs. licensing) via which employees determine whether to seek help after giving help. Importantly, we differentiate autonomous help-seeking from dependent help-seeking and propose stronger effects of help-giving on dependent help-seeking. Further, we identify leader respect as a moderator to solve the opposite effects of employees’ help-giving on their subsequent help-seeking indicated by the two contradictory mechanisms. Results of two field studies consistently showed that the negative (positive) relationship between help-giving and dependent help-seeking was serially mediated by personal reputation and reputation maintenance concerns (perceived increase of moral credits and help-seeking justification). Results regarding autonomous help-seeking were inconsistent and help-giving only positively affected autonomous help-seeking via perceived increase of moral credits and help-seeking justification in Study 2. Leader respect weakened the positive (in Study 1) but strengthened the negative relationship (in Study 1 and 2). We discuss theoretical implications for helping literature, self-regulation theory, and moral behavior research.

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