* * *
According to new research, motivation to succeed actually can decrease in people who see others succeed.
In an experiment, participants observed others trying to solve a series of word puzzles. On video monitors, some observers viewed the group completing a word puzzle, others observed the group attempt but not complete the puzzle. A control group didn’t view any puzzle-solving at all. All observers were then asked to complete word puzzles of their own.
Observers who watched the puzzles being completed were less successful with their own puzzles than those who saw the incomplete puzzles or the control group.
The researchers called this phenomenon “vicarious goal fulfillment.” If we see someone else complete a task, we transfer that fulfillment to ourselves and when we see someone else fail, our sense of fulfillment is not met, according to researchers.
“Our findings have important functional implications for the workplace,” according to [Situationist Contributor] Grainne Fitzsimons, a professor at Fuqua. “In staff meetings, employees may mistake a discussion of what needs to be done for actual progress toward a goal. Similarly, one employee’s success might actually de-motivate others to work hard. If we are aware of this pitfall, managers can try to avoid it by making it clear that positive feedback is directed at the individual and not shared by others who didn’t take part in the success.”
* * *
Related Situationist posts: