Guarding workplace turf could be harmful 0
Who took my stapler? Why are you taking my client? That project was my idea!
We've likely all run into possessiveness at a workplace. We may even stake out “our” turf without even realizing it. But new University of B.C. research suggests being overly territorial could hurt us.
“It sounds negative, but we all do it,” said Sandra Robinson, a professor at UBC's Sauder School of Business. “It's a way to protect things that are important to us.
“Basically, we know that people get a sense of ownership over things at work — a project, an idea, a stapler ... Territorial behaviour is what people do to communicate to others that something belongs to them, deciding who can use it or have access to it.”
Robinson studies what she calls the “dark side” of workplaces — everything from sabotage and social dysfunction to outright aggression.
Her latest research — co-authored with academics in Victoria and Florida — will appear in the upcoming issue of Personnel Psychology journal. The researchers asked subjects to rate their co-workers on how territorial, productive and cooperative they were. Being territorial can be a “double-edged sword,” the report found, and make you less of a team player.
“On one hand, having a sense of ownership is kind of good,” Robinson said. “People that feel a sense of ownership over things at work have a sense of control and security.
“But some evidence says it can be detrimental ... If people get into silos and don't communicate across them, it could be a problem.”
She suggests approaching co-workers constructively if they infringe, and asking ourselves, “What would really happen if I were to make myself more available and not be so guarded with information and ideas? That's how you build up trust.”