Positive Links Speaker Series Session: Prosocial Behavior in Organizations — Positive Emotions or Strategic Reputation?

Wayne Baker of the Business School.

December 16, 2013

11:30 AM – 1:00 PM

The Colloquium, 6th Floor, Ross Building, Stephen M. Ross School of Business


Why do people help one another?

Join Wayne Baker, Robert P. Thome Professor of Business; Professor of Management & Organizations; Professor of Sociology for the final Positive Links Speaker Series for Fall 2013. The Fall 2013 theme is Exploring Positive Relationships and Positive Organizations

This session invites you to engage the critical topic of Positive Leadership and Positive Relationships.  Through a combination of lecture, reflection, and discussion, we will consider “Why do people help one another, especially when helping is costly and there is no guarantee of direct reciprocity?”  This session will feature lessons on the main explanation in economics, evolutionary biology, and game theory is strategic reputation building.  By helping others, you earn a reputation for generosity that others reward by helping you.  Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS) offers another explanation:  positive emotions. When someone helps you, you feel grateful and pay it forward by helping someone else. Prof. Baker reports findings from the first-ever critical test of these two competing explanations, using data on over 44,000 decisions made by members of two organizational groups over a three-month period.  These findings show that positive emotions are a stronger mechanism than reputation.  Prof. Baker describes two positive practices that promote prosocial behavior in organizations:  prosocial bonuses and the Reciprocity Ring.

Wayne Baker was the first Director of the Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS), now known as the Center for Positive Organizations. His POS research interests include (1) energy networks in organizations, (2) generosity and reciprocity, and (3) values. He blogs five days a week about values and ethics in America. His new book is United America: The Surprising Truth about American Values, American Identity, and the 10 Beliefs that a Large Majority of Americans Holds Dear (DC Media, Inc.).  His books include America’s Crisis of Values: Reality and Perception (Princeton University Press) and Achieving Success Through Social Capital (Jossey-Bass).

Video footage of all Positive Links Speakers Series sessions can be found here.