Professionalism and helping: Harmonious or discordant concepts? An attribution theory perspective

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In examining whether a leader's professionalism implies more or fewer helping behaviors for followers, this study designed a model integrating attributional theory explanations with professionalism to predict helping behaviors. Four distinct helping behaviors were conceptualized: supporting, motivating, referral, and rejection. Qualitative methods used in the study consisted of content analysis of interviews with 12 superiors at healthcare organizations concerning their means of helping staff, and the circumstances. Quantitative data were gathered by an experimental design in which four case studies were presented to each of 171 healthcare superiors, who were asked to deal with a distressed staff nurse whose stability and controllability of the distress were rated either high or low. Superiors' professionalism was assessed. Results indicated that the relationship between professionalism and helping was complex, and critically dependent upon the type of helping behaviors provided, the help provider's professionalism, and attributions of the help seeker's controllability and stability. The qualitative and quantitative results favor attribution explanations, and imply that highly professional superiors provide higher levels of supporting, motivating, and rejecting helping behaviors as means to maintain professionalism of staff.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1892-1923
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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