Giving without expecting to receive is a key aspect of our basic social makeup. A monkey grooms another without expecting to be groomed back. Parents sacrifice their lives for the sake of their children. Most people would help an elderly person cross the road.
But is it truly possible in a competitive workplace?
Well, yes, I believe it is. Capitalism is changing. Organization structures are flatter, we are dealing with a far broader range of people, and technology has simplified communication to the extent that we can reach out to anyone across the world in a second. The opportunities for “giving” are endless.
While true altruism means not expecting anything in return, in reality, those, who are generous with their time, knowledge and effort are often more than rewarded for their attitude. Even though the beneficiaries of altruism don’t feel obliged to reciprocate, a subtle bond is created between the two parties and their gratitude is often repaid in other ways.
When you give someone a “gift” in an act of kindness, you also feel good about yourself. Anthropologists call it the positive psychological debt attitude. The person, who gives in that scenario, releases chemicals in their brain that make them happier. Acting selflessly brings benefits for yourself as well as others.
It works best in a supportive company culture, but this is not essential.
If companies value empathy and collaboration, and have a code of conduct that supports these behaviours, then it will be easier for an individual to feel that they can act in this way. There are many studies that have proven the benefits, and lots of companies are actively encouraging this. However, at the end of the day, it is down to individual choice about how they want to influence those around them.
Altruism breeds altruism.
If the management begins to set the example, then the rest of the company often follow suit. A boss, who gets in a take-away for the team from his own pocket after a late night session, is someone who truly cares for them. A boss, who gives his time freely to the intern, sets an example to the rest of the team to do the same. A boss, who puts the individual ahead of the organization, is benefiting the organization in the long run.
Much has been written about performing random acts of kindness (like leaving a big tip for a small check; giving up a parking space or buying someone a small gift). But when we act out of kindness and altruism towards our business colleagues we have the added benefit of contributing towards creating a more harmonious and trusting workplace culture.
Our environment does dictate our actions to a certain extent. We may not enjoy living competitive and selfish lives, but sometimes it seems like society gives us no choice. “That just wouldn’t work in my company” might be your response.
Well, you always have a choice, and you can always play your little part in making your company a more giving and harmonious place to work.
Who knows, others might follow your example?
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