Are you one of those habitually guilty individuals who always worries you aren’t doing enough? Don’t feel too bad. It turns out that that little gnawing feeling in your gut may just make you a better employee and an effective leader.

In “Defend Your Research: Guilt-Ridden People Make Great Leaders” published in the Harvard Law Review, researcher Francis Flynn discusses his study involving guilt and job performance. “Those who felt guilty worked harder and were more likely to promote the organization to others,” said Flynn.

It is funny to think a feeling like guilt would make us better employees. But this makes sense. Guilt makes us empathetic. It makes us want to be better. Guilt also gives us a sense of responsibility. It really can be motivation, if we act on it.

Caution – don’t try to use guilt as a motivator with others. “Inducing guilt can sometimes backfire by eliciting resentment, but it can also be highly effective. If it weren’t, then why is my mother so good at it? That doesn’t mean managers should try to inspire guilt or that the approach would work long-term. One thing we haven’t mentioned is that while there are benefits to guilt, there are probably costs as well,” said Flynn.

What is critical to understand is the difference between guilt and healthy self-awareness. Is it the guilt itself that makes people better employees and leaders? Or is it that people are leaders because they are able to recognize the less-than-ideal qualities in themselves and do something about them?

What other traits might we be surprised to find that make us better employees and people? Share your thoughts below or send us a message!


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