Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Do 'do-gooders' irk you?

A week ago, a friend told me about a conversation she had with one of our co-workers.

She had signed up to do some volunteering over the holiday weekend, and was rebuffed by a young man we both work with.

"Oh, are you doing that with Val?"

When she replied that she was volunteering of her own volition, she got an "Ohhhhh," accompanied by a confused look. 

Apparently, it's cool for me to volunteer because of my project and blog, but for others, why bother?

This reminded me of a study I recently saw reported on the blaring TV behind me at work. The results of the study indicated that people hate do-gooders because they make others look bad.

So I dug around to read more about the Washington State University study.

Here's an excerpt from the report:

"The studies gave participants — introductory psychology students — pools of points that they could keep or give up for an immediate reward of meal service vouchers. Participants also were told that giving up points would improve the group’s chance of receiving a monetary reward.

"In reality, the participants were playing in fake groups of five. Most of the fictitious four would make seemingly fair swaps of one point for each voucher, but one of the four often would make lopsided exchanges - greedily giving up no points and taking a lot of vouchers or unselfishly giving up a lot of points and taking few vouchers.

"The study revealed that unselfish colleagues come to be resented because they 'raise the bar' for what is expected of everyone. As a result, workers feel the new standard will make everyone else look bad, according to the study."

The study further indicated that while people disliked incredibly greedy people, they felt the same toward generous people.

I shouldn't be surprised by the study. It's like watching the kid who constantly raises his or her hand in math class (I was that kid in English class, but I detest math, so I'll pick on that student instead). I certainly don't see myself as better than my peers for volunteering — especially when I enjoy it — but I also won't care too much if I'm hated or not. I'm a journalist after all.


  1. I commend anyone that goes out to volunteer in their communities, regardless of the reason. Every little bit helps. Don't hate do-gooders - become one!

  2. Thanks for the comment and for spreading goodwill!

  3. Similarly, a cop I knew said his co-workers complained that he made them look bad because he was good at his job. A friend who worked in the post office also said her co-workers hated her for being diligent; she said they'd jam the machines to get random breaks. So I say if people hate you for doing good, that's their problem.