The Psychology of Being Irrationally Helpful

By Katie Torres

Okay, I don't really know how to use proper psychological jargon to discuss this topic.

My best friend does. She's sitting right here, trying to explain it to me, and it's going right over my head. I am no psychologist.

So I'll settle for the fact that the title got you to read this post, and I will explain to you, in my own words, how it affects people when a company is irrationally helpful to its customers, and to its employees.

Have you ever been struggling in an area, whether it be personal or professional, and had someone above you "kick you while you're down", so to speak?

It goes like this: You put hours, even days, or weeks into a project. It comes time to submit your work, and then you realize (or it's pointed out to you) that you have royally screwed up on something. 

You're nervous about your boss' response. You're likely hoping for some mercy, and a chance to fix the mistake. But you know how mistakes have been treated in the past, so you don't ask.

And sure enough, your boss is not happy. 

You turn in the project, and he not only rejects the work, but chooses not to pay you for the content and says he is no longer giving you projects to complete. 

So, I guess I know a wee bit about psychology. The boss described above uses negative reinforcement to achieve his desired outcome.

Negative reinforcement, in a business setting, may take on many forms. On an extreme, you may be fired for your mistake. Or less extreme, yet still obvious, you may receive cuts in pay, have responsibilities taken from you, be left out of meetings, etc.

Negative reinforcement may make you work harder to do a good job, but it causes you to respond for fear of punishment, rather than for love of your job and the desire to improve.

Positive reinforcement, however, causes you not only to work harder, but to also want to work harder. You want the challenge, you want the extra responsibility, and you want to go above and beyond expectations when you are lead by a leader who uses positive reinforcement.

A boss who uses positive reinforcement will not overlook mistakes, but will offer grace and the support needed to improve.

This boss will give you responsibilities that may be just beyond your comfort zone, with full confidence that you will learn along the way, and maybe even go above and beyond the expectation.

This boss will offer healthy incentive for a job well done. This can look like bonuses, rewards, or recognition. But rewards will never be removed from you for mistakes; only added unto you for accomplishments.

This boss will look for your potential, rather than calling you out for your weaknesses. Your current skills and abilities will be invested in so you have the opportunity to improve, and your weaknesses will strengthen in the process.

Being irrationally helpful is this: To expect the best from people, even though they are imperfect people; to give grace even when someone royally screws up; to take a chance on people by investing in their growth, even if they lack the confidence in themselves to be greater.

It sounds counter intuitive. And positive reinforcement does NOT mean that expectations are dropped or employees can get away with not giving their best. 

But it DOES mean that you will grow, and will desire to do better. And the need for consequences will become less and less as you grow into the efficient worker your boss always knew you could be.

So listen; this is exactly how Envoy works. If you're looking for a job that provides the opportunity to grow and learn, with positive reinforcement and support, you might want to check out our open job positions (and be sure to mention this post when applying). Or if you just wanna know more about what we do, come check out our site, here.