Employee help-seeking: Antecedents, consequences and new insights for future research

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Although employee helping behaviors have been widely examined by organizational and human resource management scholars, relatively little is known about the antecedents and consequences of help-seeking in the workplace. Seeking to fill this gap, I draw from the social and counseling psychology literatures, as well as from research in epidemiology and health sociology to first conceptualize the notion of employee help-seeking and then to identify the variables and mechanisms potentially driving such behavior in work organizations. My critical review of this literature suggests that the application of existing models of help-seeking may offer limited predictive utility when applied to the workplace unless help-seeking is conceived as the outcome of a multi-level process. That in mind, I propose a model of employee help-seeking that takes into account the potential direct and cross-level moderating effects of a variety of situational factors (e.g., the nature of the particular problem, organizational norms, support climate) that might have differential influences on help-seeking behavior depending on the particular phase of the help-seeking process examined. Following this, I focus on two sets of help-seeking outcomes, namely, the implications of employee help-seeking on individual and group performance, and the impact of help-seeking on employee well-being. The chapter concludes with a brief examination of some of the more critical issues in employee help-seeking that remain to be explored (e.g., the timing of help solicitation) as well as the methodological challenges likely to be faced by those seeking to engage in such exploration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-98
Number of pages50
JournalResearch in Personnel and Human Resources Management
StatePublished - 2009


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