Here’s Why We Love to Hate Do-gooders
Why is it that the happiest, cheeriest co-worker is always the one we love to hate? There may be a scientific reason as to why. Researchers at the University of Guelph found that highly cooperative and generous people can attract hatred, especially in the workplace.
The study found that people are likely to be suspicious of and hostile towards people that come off as “better” or holier-than-thou in the workplace. To come to this conclusion, the researchers had participants play a public-goods game with punishment. They found that there were more antisocial punishments being given when people were being chosen to compete. Like, in the workplace.
“You can imagine within an organization today the attitude, ‘Hey, you’re working too hard and making the rest of us look bad.’ In some organizations, people are known for policing how hard others work, to make sure no one is raising the bar from what is expected,” says lead researcher Pat Barclay.
It’s interesting, most of the time we root for the cooperator, and want to see the antisocial “bad guy” lose. Yet, when faced with the same scenario in the workplace, if the “good guy” is better than us, we don’t like it.
This deep-rooted social stigma goes back a long way. Anthropological evidence from egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies suggests a similar social phenomenon prevented excellent hunters from dominating the group, Barclay says.
This social reasoning may also be in play when it comes to saving the planet. For example, people who think they are “too cool” to recycle would rather put off that image and make fun of those who do care.
“It is a way of bringing those people back down and stopping them from looking better than oneself in their attempts to protect the environment or address social inequality,” Barclay says.
We’ve all been guilty of thinking a not so great thought about someone who’s “better.” But, let’s all be careful and make sure this social dynamic doesn’t affect us too much.