Christopher M. Barnes: Harmful Help

Mike interviews Chris Barnes of Michigan State University about an experiment he and his colleagues conducted that looked at helping in teams. They find that providing back up help for team members sometimes harms both short-term and long-term team performance. Helping teammates can prevent team members from completing their own work, and can enable the help recipients such that they come to rely on the back up from their team.

Chris Barnes

Christopher M. Barnes is currently a graduate student in the Eli Broad Graduate School of Management at Michigan State University, pursuing a PhD in Business Administration with a major in Organizational Behavior and a minor in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. His current research interests include team performance and decision-making, the influence of fatigue on individual and team performance, team compensation, and leadership.

Recommended further readings:

  • Barnes, C. M, Hollenbeck, J. R, Wagner, D. T, DeRue, D. S., Nahrgang, J. D, & Schwind, K. M. (2008). Harmful help: The costs of backing-up behavior in teams. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93, 529-539.
  • McGrath, J. E. (1984). Groups: Interaction and performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • McIntyre, R. M. & Salas, E. (1997). Measuring and managing for team performance: Lessons from complex environments. In R. A. Guzzo & E. Salas (Eds.), Team effectiveness and decision-making in organizations: 9-45. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Porter, C. O. L. H., Hollenbeck, J. R., Ilgen, D. R., Ellis, A. P. J., West, B. J., & Moon, H. (2003). Backing up behaviors in teams: The role of personality and legitimacy of need. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88, 391-403.
  • Porter, C. O. L. H. (2005). Goal orientation: Effects on backing up behavior, performance, efficacy, and commitment in teams. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90, 811-818

Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson is an Assistant Professor in Department of Management and Organization at the University of Washington. He can be reached via