Going Above and Beyond Does Not Pay Off

A client asks for a report by Wednesday evening. Do you make sure it gets to them by Wednesday, or do you bust ass over the weekend and send it over Monday morning? If you picked the second option, prepare for the client not to care.

A study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science has found that, whilst people care a lot about whether someone keeps their promise, not may care if that promise is exceeded.

In one experiment, participants were asked to recall three promises: one broken, one kept, and one exceeded. While kept promises were valued much more highly than broken ones, exceeded promises confirmed no additional benefits. When asked, participants said that the exceeded promises didn’t really require extra effort.

In another experiment, participants were required to solve forty puzzles and were given a partner who promised to help with ten. The researchers then told the partner to solve either ten, five, or fifteen puzzles. Obviously, subjects weren’t happy when their partner broke their promise and only solved five puzzles, but when their partners solved fifteen, subjects weren’t any happier than when partners solved only ten.

“I was surprised that exceeding a promise produced so little meaningful increase in gratitude or appreciation. I had anticipated a modest positive effect,” said researcher Nicholas Epley, but “what we actually found was almost no gain from exceeding a promise whatsoever.”

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