Explore the benefits of "giving" in the workplace.
When I chased after money, I never had enough. When I got my life on purpose and focused on giving of myself and everything that arrived into my life, then I was prosperous. – Wayne Dyer, author and speaker
Karen is one of those people who others love to be around. She has a broad smile and a kind word for everybody, and she takes sincere pleasure in helping members of her team.
Although she spends a lot of her time and energy on others, she succeeds in her own role too, and her colleagues routinely offer their assistance and expertise to her. Overall, her love of giving seems to cement her team together.
When we're at work, we can spend a lot of energy trying to get help from those around us. However, how much time do we spend helping others in return?
Having a strong social support network at work raises morale, productivity, and overall success. If we truly want to succeed, however, each of us must spend time "giving ourselves" to those in our network. Only then will we experience the true benefits that giving brings, and start to see the success we've dreamed of.
Giving makes us happy. The happier we are, the more energy we have, the better we think, and the more friendships we develop. Giving not only feels good, but research shows that it lowers your chance of depression, strengthens your heart, lowers stress, and can literally add years to your life.
Professionally, giving also offers several benefits. One study found that fostering positive social support at work raises productivity. Another study found that those who give at work ("work altruists"), are far more engaged with what they do and are more often promoted, compared with colleagues who stay isolated while doing their job. (Click here to find out more about these studies.)
However, you probably don't need research to tell you that giving makes you feel good! Just think back to the last time you helped a colleague who was stuck with a problem, or took your assistant out to lunch. Giving boosts our energy in a way that nothing else can. We feel connected and engaged when we help others, because it reminds us of what it means to be human, at its best.
All this, in turn, comes back to us in ways we could never expect or predict. Giving creates a network of trust, goodwill, and good energy at work that can pay off many times over in the future.
Giving and kindness also have an important ripple effect, which is why one generous person can transform a team or an organization. The person you give to feels great about the help they received. This can create a desire in them to "pay back" that kindness to someone else. Much like ripples in a pond, one act of kindness can impact dozens, or even hundreds, of lives.
The good news about giving is that you don't need to invest huge chunks of your time to do it. Often, the smallest acts of kindness and consideration can have a big impact on those around us.
So, how can we give at work?
A great way of giving is simply to listen to others.
When you do this, listen without contributing your opinion, and without trying to "top their story." Use Active Listening skills, so that you can fully grasp what they're telling you, and respond with empathy and understanding.
How many times have you heard a colleague say, "Let me know if you need any help!" but had the distinct feeling they didn't really mean it? Vague offers of help can come across as half-hearted or insincere. Offering help in a specific way shows that you mean it.
For instance, your colleagues may be complaining about their workload. So, offer specific help: volunteer to collect their lunch for them, so that they can continue working, or give them a hand with a task if your own workload allows. When you offer specific assistance, you let others know that you're truly willing to help
If you're in a leadership position, how often do you give praise to your team? How often do you say "thank you" to your assistant for the good work he or she does every day?
Showing gratitude to those around us, whether above or below us in the hierarchy, is a simple but powerful way to give. So, find ways to say "thank you" to your team and colleagues. You might be surprised at the difference that this makes to your relationships!
When you mentor others, you can share a lifetime's worth of knowledge and skill in order to help them succeed. This unselfish act not only benefits the professionals you work with; it can change your own life in many ways.
It probably goes without saying that your organization will benefit when strong mentoring relationships are formed within it. Start mentoring in the workplace now, and experience the satisfaction that comes with helping others to succeed.
If your team or department has ample resources or supplies, why not offer to share them with another team or department, particularly if it is not as well funded as yours?
This could include sharing resources such as physical supplies, but also knowledge, technology, and team member expertise as well. (This won't be viable in some situations. Use your own best judgment here, and make sure that you're doing your own job properly as well!)
Can you remember what it was like on your very first day at the organization? You didn't know anyone, and you probably felt overwhelmed by all of your tasks and responsibilities.
When a new employee joins your organization or team, spend time with her during her first few weeks and help her have a successful induction. Offer to help her get used to her new role, and take her around to meet everyone that she'll be working with. Share your knowledge about the organization's culture and values.
This can make a challenging transition smoother and less stressful.
Random acts of kindness can transform both you and the person you help. When you are kind to someone anonymously, you give for the simple, ego-less pleasure of giving, and that's it. So, practice random acts of kindness when you're at work.
What can you do? Leave a cup of gourmet coffee on your colleague's desk when he or she is having a bad day. Send an anonymous "thank you" letter to your organization's cleaning staff. Bring some healthy snacks or homemade cookies to work, and leave them anonymously in the break room, with a note letting others know that they're for everyone.
There are endless ways that you can make a positive impact on someone else's day. Just use your imagination!
Every job has a purpose. It's easy, especially when we're busy and stressed, to forget how our role helps others. But, no matter what we do or where we do it, ultimately our work should benefit someone else.
Take time to find your purpose at work. Once you dig down to find the ultimate meaning of what you do, you may be surprised by how much your work helps others.
Although it's important to give your time and energy to others, it's equally important not to go too far! For example, giving a lot of your time to a client might not sit well with your boss, especially if that time is billable.
Equally, if you spend too much time helping your colleagues, you may find that you don't have time to accomplish your own objectives. It's important to find the right balance between helping others, and focusing on your own goals and tasks.
Giving our time and energy to others not only feels good, but it's been proven to make us happier, more productive, and more engaged with our team and organization.
Giving also offers positive physical benefits as well: it helps alleviate stress, helps lower our risk of illnesses like depression, and even helps us live longer!
You can give back to others by doing any or all of the following:
Make an effort to give regularly – you'll love the results!
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Park, K.O, Wilson, M.G, and Lee, M.S (2004) 'Effects of Social Support at Work on Depression and Organizational Productivity,' American Journal of Health Behavior, September-October, 2004. [Available here.]
Achor, S (2011) 'What Giving Gets You at the Office,' Harvard Business Review Blog Network. [Online] Available here. [Accessed 22 September 2011.]
Bowling, N.A and Beehr, T.A (2004) 'Giving and Receiving Social Support at Work: The Roles of Personality and Reciprocity,' Journal of Vocational Behavior, Volume 67, Issue 3, December 2005. [Available here.]