Tennis player and namesake of the ESPYS Courage award, Arthur Ashe famously said, “From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.” This giving mindset, one where others act for the benefit of others without expecting anything in return, has been shown to provide the giver the same rewarding feelings as if she were benefitting only herself. The benefits even extend beyond the giver and receiver to include the connector and even the observer. So, it follows then that a generous and giving workplace is a rising tide of morale that lifts all boats, directly or indirectly.
Here are some examples of this mindset in action:
Painless Productivity Increases – We all have the same number of hours in a day, but most of us know what it feels like to be in a ‘time famine.’ When it feels like there isn’t enough time to do everything that needs doing. This subjective sense of having time, known as ‘time affluence,’ has an obvious effect on how much we get done. If we’re stressed and rushed, our both our quality and quantity of work can suffer.
Research has shown, however, that those who give away their spare time voluntarily — to help someone else, be it a charity or a co-worker against a deadline — actually increase the helpers sense of available time. And self-interested uses of the same time, even being given a windfall of free time, did not have the same effect.
A stress-free, worker versus a stressed worker with the same deadline will have an obvious benefit in quality. These benefits of helping others have also been shown to leave workers happier when at home, extending the benefits of a giving workplace even to the personal lives of the employees.
Less Stress, More Energy – In his book, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, by Adam Grant, who holds a doctorate in organizational psychology, he mentions a study he conducted where givers who were high school teachers were less vulnerable to stress and exhaustion if they saw the effects of their giving among their students.
The mere knowledge that your generosity has helped the recipient can benefit the giver. In a workplace, especially with an open model, where behavior is easily and indeed passively observed, one need not wait or travel to see their own giving efforts in action. Considering the contagious effect of such behavior, the ripple can quickly spread itself around.
Which brings us to —
Attitudes Multiply – Any experienced leader knows that both bad and good attitudes have a tendency to produce converts. Negativity can whittle away at perception and morale, ever so slightly slanting the perspective of everyone who comes in contact with it. Positivity works much the same way. An emphasis on optimism can shift an entire staff’s view of a project or even a personnel problem.
Encouraging a giving and generous mindset in the workplace will eventually reach even those who know no other way than taking. We’ve seen that people are happier, less stressed, less tired and better workers in a giving workplace — but one of the invisible benefits of such a strong mentality is that negativity will find no purchase in a predominantly positive zone.
You can build a culture of positivity with a reward based dynamic, or even as positive reinforcement. Rather than remaining silent while things go well, and speaking up only when things go wrong, you can try rewarding positive behavior and simply ignoring the negative. Consider something like a surprise lunch, or even a gift card via Shopify, just because someone was on time every day in a week or met all their deadlines.
Where attitudes are left to sort themselves out, there is a vacuum waiting for whoever has the loudest voice. This is often down to the leader himself, and he or she may not have time or inclination to set aside time to nurture positivity, certainly not in a way that would have a half life longer than the conversation itself.
By stoking positivity and generosity, you are actively filling that vacuum with the right kind of mindset, with every employee reinforcing those same positive ideas at every point of interaction. It’s like vaccinating your staff against the inevitable negativity of an employee having a bad day.