Benny A. Benjamin
Career Psychologist, academic editor, and blogger

‘You can’t ignore it’: Help your colleagues!

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” ― Charles Dickens

…You cannot ignore it….”You shall not see your kinsman’s donkey or ox fallen on the road and ignore it. Help him to lift it” Deuteronomy 22:3–4.

The focus of the commandments laid out in Deuteronomy Chapter 22 is our obligation to assist others when they are in a bind, whether they be family, friends, neighbors, or even (perhaps especially) those with whom we may not be on such good terms. The key phrase in many of these commandments regarding others is not to ignore their misfortune: “If you see your kinsman’s ox or sheep straying away, do not ignore it; you must return it to its owner…You must do the same with his donkey, the same with his garment, the same with anything your kinsman loses and you find. You can not ignore it…You shall not see your kinsman’s donkey or ox fallen on the road and ignore it. Help him to lift it.”[1]

We immediately notice that the text does not simply ask us to be nice and help restore our neighbor’s property (as if they were family); it acknowledges that our instinct may be to ignore the lost garment or fallen donkey and rush off to our commitments. Our duty, then, is to partner with the donkey owner in restoring the donkey to its feet and help rebalance its burden. Going a step further, we are not only admonished, “Do not ignore it,” but also “You cannot ignore it,” as if to say, “Even though you can easily come up with a reason why you really can’t help this time–as much as you would like to–that is not an option.”

So, whether you see a person stuck with a flat tire, have their hood up on a deserted road, or looking for someone with a battery cable, you should stop to see how you can assist. You may call for help, offer water, calm down a baby, or just commiserate. Acknowledging the other and rolling up your sleeves will help them feel they’re not alone in dealing with their challenge.

Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) is a fancy way of saying: “Be helpful to your co-workers when they are stuck and assist them with their burden, even if it would be easier (and probably viewed by others as legitimate) to go about your business.” OCB refers to voluntary actions performed at work to assist a colleague or contribute to the organization beyond one’s job description. ‘Going the extra mile’ has often been associated with offering that extra treatment to customers, resulting in increased customer satisfaction and greater loyalty to the organization. In this context, OCB refers to going the extra mile and putting yourself out for your colleagues or the organization’s benefit.

The developer of the OCB concept, Dennis Organ, identified five prominent expressions of OCB[2]:

  • Altruism (e.g., helping a swamped colleague or cleaning up after a meeting with no expectation of reward);
  • Courtesy (e.g., showing interest in others and acknowledging them through small talk or inquiring about their family);
  • Sportsmanship (e.g., filling in for an absent team member without complaining);
  • Conscientiousness (e.g., making sure assignments get completed, even after hours);
  • Civic virtue (e.g., talking up the organization or defending it, even when ‘off duty’).

Studies have reported positive side effects from organizations whose employees go out of their way for others. These include greater work engagement, less turnover, positive interpersonal relationships, reduced burnout, higher customer satisfaction, and greater meaningfulness.[3]

Career tips:

  • For managers: How can a manager promote OCB without losing its crucial voluntary component? Critically, OCB is not performed out of coercion, a condition known as ‘citizenship pressure.’ Aside from informally acknowledging OCB individuals, managers have another tool to bolster their presence in the workplace: They can use the job interview to incorporate questions to reveal candidates likely to engage in OCB (e.g., “Can you give me an example of when you felt you went the extra mile for a colleague in your previous job?”).

  • For employees: OCB behaviors can contribute to an organizational culture that could make your workday more pleasant. You may not need to go beyond the team level to create a work setting characterized by mutual assistance and caring. It doesn’t even demand a daily effort, but knowing that you can count on your team colleagues when you are pressured, and they can count on you could make a tremendous difference in the quality of your workday.

  • Try this: Make an effort to help a colleague who may not be your best friend at work when they are in a bind. You may be surprised how the timing of your assistance can turn the relationship around and set a valuable example for your colleagues.

For more Torah-Career Coaching Connections, visit The Bible at Work

[1]Deuteronomy 22:1–4. [2]Verlinden, N. (n.d.). Organizational citizenship behavior: Benefits and 3 best practices. AIHR—Academy to Inovate HR. [3]Zhang, D. (2011). Organisational citizenship behavior: White paper 2011. University of Aukland, NZ.
About the Author
Dr. Benjamin was born in Israel, raised and educated in the US, and is a veteran resident of Jerusalem. His doctorate in counseling psychology is from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He has taught and trained psychologists and counselors at US and Israeli universities. His long-time position as the head psychologist of the Israel National Employment Service provided him with the foundation for understanding the workforce in all its diversity and appreciating the challenges individuals face at all career stages. His professional foci of the last decade has been career coaching and academic editing. Aside from his family, this blog reflects his two passions–Bible study and career development–and he is pleased to include you in this journey that links these passions.
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