If You're Growing at Work, Thank Your Team

When groups of comedians do improv, they have an internal rule: Do everything possible to make everyone around you funnier. It's what allows people to take risks and make good theater on the fly. According to new research, that principle plays well in the workplace too.

Researchers at the University of Michigan wanted to see whether personal growth comes from within or whether it's about relationships with others. They looked at data from the United States and Japan and found something surprising: Most of us are willing to work at lower pay if it means being part of a supportive work environment.

That result came from a study asking participants to consider whether they'd prefer a higher-paying job that they already know versus a lower-paying job that required learning new skills that would help build their career. After thinking about a relationship with varying levels of closeness or antagonism, two-thirds of those with supportive relationships chose to seek out new opportunities with growth potential, even if it meant a pay cut.

"The more supportive people judged their relationships to be, the higher their personal growth tendencies, even in a culture that puts more emphasis on the collective rather than the individual," said lead author David Lee in a press release. "Building positive social connections with others should put people in a good position to receive social support that is instrumental to personal growth," he added, "as well as allowing people to strike a balance between two fundamental values: to strive and connect."

It seems intuitive that good work environments help you do your best work. But it's worth thinking about how involved you are with your coworkers and whether you all feel connected to each other and your individual missions. Even checking in with a work acquaintance about what they're up to can build confidence for both of you. We may think trust falls are corny, but given this research, they may be on to something.