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When Judging Others Isn't a Bad Thing

by Katie Moritz
April 13, 2017 | Work

Judge not, lest ye be judged. Or maybe judging each other is a good thing?

Judging pbs rewire

New research suggests that judging the people you work with—both positively and negatively—could help you work better together.

"People really care about their moral reputation," said Stanford University sociologist and researcher Robb Willer to the university. "So just knowing that you could be criticized keeps cooperation going."

What motivates people to cooperate

Willer and his team studied 54 four-person groups that were tasked with completing a series of team exercises that lasted about an hour. Some of those groups were asked to let each other know when they liked or didn't like something a teammate did; other groups were given money and told to fine each other when they didn't like an action.

How did these methods affect team bonding? While cooperation was about the same in both scenarios, the groups that were asked to make judgments of one another actually reported feeling more trusting and generous toward each other—more so than the teams that punished each other financially.

Members of teams that used money to punish one another were prone to retaliate when they were fined. Not so in the teams that used feedback to guide one another's actions.

And though encouraging team members to let each other know when they liked or didn't like something might sound like a disaster waiting to happen—especially if you're a manager—the researchers found that the feedback that was shared within the teams was overwhelmingly positive.

Judging pbs rewire

People praised each other's actions about 60 percent of the time and had negative things to say about 14 percent of the time. The possibility of being called out for doing something wrong kept folks working together and doing the right thing.

"These findings suggest that the motivation to see ourselves, and be seen by others, as moral actors can be every bit as motivating as the drive to maximize material profit," the researchers wrote.

How can you boost cooperation?

While many people are motivated to be team players when their reputation is on the line, it's not the only way to encourage people to be their best selves at work. Here are a couple more ideas for motivating a team:

1) Incentive pay—but only if it's fair: While employees might be motivated by extra money to be more productive or happier at work, there are also drawbacks to cash bonuses. Find out what works and what doesn't.

2) Work-life balance: One of the biggest de-motivators in the workplace is forcing people to choose between family and work obligations. Work-life balance is critical for career success.

3) Try a standing desk: Standing desks have been shown to boost office collaboration by putting everyone at eye level.

Katie Moritz
Katie Moritz was Rewire's senior editor from 2016-2020. She is a Pisces who enjoys thrift stores and pho. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.
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