Does Helping Coworkers Affect Creativity?

Increased information sharing among individuals can harness unique perspectives that will create new ideas. One way that information is shared within teams is through seeking help and helping fellow teammates. Often overlooked, however, is the question of whether this increased demand of helping within teams may come with potential negative consequences with respect to creativity.


Researchers (Mueller & Kamdar, 2010) investigated the impact of helping behaviors among teammates on creativity. Specifically, they examined the impact of employees’ help-seeking behaviors on their individual creativity, and whether reciprocation of help may diminish this creativity.

In general, the authors found that employees that are intrinsically motivated to engage in creative processes are more likely to ask for help, which leads to more individual creativity. However, these employees tend to reciprocate by giving more help to teammates, which predicts a decrease in the likelihood that intrinsic motivation and help-seeking will lead to individual creativity, probably due to not spending that energy on one’s own work.


The authors assert that while seeking help from teammates does occur with the expectation of reciprocation, which has some negative consequences for individual creativity, the benefits of help-seeking are still important. Thus, they encourage organizations to invest in finding ways to lessen the costs of help-seeking, such as formalized roles and processes that facilitate help administration. This will allow organizations to avert the burden help-seekers may experience, allowing for the positive outcome of creativity to lend itself to organizational effectiveness.


Mueller, J. S., & Kamdar, D. (2011). Why seeking help from teammates is a blessing and a curse: A theory of help seeking and individual creativity in team contexts. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(2), 263–276