Posted by & filed under Group Processes, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Intergroup Relations, Social Cognition, Social Influence, Social Perception, Uncategorized.

Description: Can supervisors tell the difference between workers who are actually trying to help the company or team enterprise and which ones are just sucking up to gain favour and proportion? This study examined that question directly to see if supervisors could tell the difference between good soldiers (selflessly deserving of rewards) or good actors (looking for unfair rewards).


Date: March 5, 2015


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Links:     See sources above and references below.

Siblings (young and old), grade school students (actually students of all ages), and workers in many many workplaces worry about those of their peers who may be acting positively but are really just currying favour or what is sometimes referred to as “brown nosing” so that their parents or teachers or supervisors will view them positively and provide them undeserved nice things like promotions. Such good actors then get rewards that the “good soldiers” or people behaving more selflessly for the good of the family, class or organization really deserve. This study conducted by Magda Donia of the University of Ottawa and other Canadian colleagues suggests that we should not worry. Their findings suggest that supervisors are quite good at telling the difference between good actors and good soldiers and rewarding the good soldiers accordingly.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of behaviours and related negative motivations do the “Good Actors” in this study engage in? How easy do you think they would be to differentiate from the positively motivated behaviours of “Good Soldiers”? Can YOU tell when someone is “brown-nosing”?
  2. How might an Industrial Organizational psychologist suggest we train supervisors to avoid the sorts concerns raised in this article?
  3. What are some concerns or possible issues we might raise about how this research was conducted (e.g., think about what instructions the workers and supervisors in the study may have been given). ?

References (Read Further):
Donia, Magda B.L., Johns, Gary and Raja, Usman (2015) Good Soldier or Good Actor? Supervisor Accuracy in Distinguishing Between Selfless and Self-Serving OCB Motives. Journal of Business and Psychology,