Harmful Help: The Costs of Backing-Up Behavior in Teams

Christopher M. Barnes, John R. Hollenbeck, David T. Wagner, D. Scott DeRue, Jennifer D. Nahrgang, Kelly M. Schwind

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Prior research on backing-up behavior has indicated that it is beneficial to teams (C. O. L. H. Porter, 2005; C. O. L. H. Porter et al., 2003). This literature has focused on how backing-up behavior aids backup recipients in tasks in which workload is unevenly distributed among team members. The authors of the present study examined different contexts of workload distribution and found that, in addition to the initial benefits to backup recipients, there are initial and subsequent costs. Backing-up behavior leads backup providers to neglect their own taskwork, especially when workload is evenly distributed. Team members who receive high amounts of backing-up behavior decrease their taskwork in a subsequent task, especially when a team member can observe their workload. These findings indicate that it is important to consider both the benefits and costs of engaging in backing-up behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)529-539
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2008


  • backing-up behavior
  • dependence
  • helping behavior
  • team performance
  • workload

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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