Will you help ?

This is a discussion blog – I have some opinion, but don’t know for sure. And yes, this is inspired by the ethical situations we were presented with by Prof Murnighan at Kellogg.

Here’s the dilemma I have – should you help people who don’t help themselves ?

Situation 1 – This is a colleague of yours who never puts together a presentation without errors and inspite of being told several times, feedback given, formally and informally, does not check his numbers. He has a big presentation coming up with the CEO – will you help to set right his numbers ?

Situation 2 – In school, you all were supposed to come prepared for class with the pre read material, one of the students never prepares for any class, do you help when the teacher asks him/her a question ? He/she is otherwise really nice in all other interactions with you.

Situation 3 – Your manager takes your ideas and presents it as his/her’s and never acknowledges your contribution… Doesn’t have an idea of his/her own. Except for this one habit, the manager is ok on other aspects. He/She is attending a leadership meeting where each person has to present 5 ideas – will you help this manager ? If your promotion is at stake and if its not 🙂

Here are my responses – in Situation 1, I will help correct the numbers as he is going up to present to the CEO, provided he is good in all other aspects and acknowledges his inability to correct numbers. I would not help if he is arrogant and full of himself. In Situation 2 and 3 – I wouldn’t like to help. I think I will help in a team situation but would not like the freeloaders and may not go out of my way to support them. But in an one to one situation, where the consequences are just to me, I will not help. I think that’s the way I process these.

What do some of you think your responses would be and why ?

4 thoughts on “Will you help ?”

  1. Situation 1 – Yes, with a background, that, we have good relationship, as, everyone is not ok with getting help these days.
    Situation 2 – No, probably check with him before the call for any help or tips; helping during an ongoing class …. not a good idea.
    Situation 3 – keeping the point of promotion aside; will help, as, need to look at bigger picture, my ideas may help deliver more values for the stakeholders. 🙂

  2. Situation 1 – I would help for the same reasons as yours. I will also choose to help him/her knowing that his performance would also be reflective of my group’s performance and sometimes you need to carry your peers through knowing that a CEO’s perception may not be limited to the individual but the group as well. Personally knowing of a blunder waiting to happen makes me very uncomfortable irrespective of who is going to make it so, if it is within my control I will surely caution and advise the correct way. I will also let my manager know that I helped out in a very objective way for him/her to know me better.

    Before I respond to this one I have to say that my response is basis what I know today. I am sure while I was in school I would have most likely been the subject spoken about here  and in instances where I was not I would have cared less.
    Situation 2 – I will help him/her and also try and establish through a 1:1 conversation the reasons behind the lack of preparation. If it is purely a function of laziness I will stop helping in the future but if it is owing to a reason where the individual has the intent but fails owing to XYZ reason I will advise him/her on how to manage better. If the reasons are beyond my scope of advice I will encourage him/her to talk to the teacher and may choose to let the teacher know myself if he/she is not able to.

    Situation 3 – I agree with your reasons. If I know that my manager has an opportunity to present these ideas I will also make a subtle attempt to tell him/her how showcasing these ideas as a team initiative may project his/her abilities better. I have also used the reverse phycology sometimes of thanking my managers for things they should have done but did not and noticed how they started to do them the next time onwards 🙂

    Overall my approach to helping people who don’t help themselves starts from establishing the underlying reason for their behavior. On many occasions I have found that scratching the surface a little reveals a different picture and an provides an opportunity to influence some deep rooted issues and some of those learning’s for me have been profound

    • Dilip – first, you write so well. Second – I like your reasoning. The fact is many of us react in a given context and our behavior would be different the minute the context changes, like in these situations, once you know the motivations for the behavior, your reaction would change.

      Thanks for sharing.


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