Creating a Giving Culture at Work

business cultureYou’ve all been asked to support various causes at work. Maybe it’s been your co-worker’s child’s softball team or the current company cause. These are all great, assuming they are in alignment with the company values and policies and truly assist someone or some organization in need.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal laid out the case that we humans might just be hard wired for giving. This is somewhat surprising considering the current view that we are all about “survival of the fittest” and inherently self-driven. The study referenced shows that the brain churns out a pleasurable response when we engage in generosity. So why don’t we do more of it? I think there are several reasons. Most people think or assume that giving is about money or time and if we’re surviving or barely making ends meet, it’s hard to justify giving money. The same can be said for time. With the busy world we live in – family, work, outside interests – how can we find the time to donate when we barely have enough for our families or ourselves?

I think there is actually a third way we can “give back” so to speak, by mentoring. Mentoring is giving of your time and expertise to another in the workplace, (or outside of it), that could benefit from your skill or experience. I’m not talking about formal mentoring or coaching such as I’ve done for many years for clients. I’m talking about the informal mentoring that each employee can give to another employee that might want or need it.

Let’s say we have a particularly talented employee who is in an entry level job, but doesn’t know how or what the next step might be to move up, short of going back to school for a degree or training. Even in a company with fewer than 50 people, I’m guessing there is someone there who could mentor this person. The first step is finding out what they would like to learn or do in the future. (By the way, I think every manager should know what his or her employees aspire to, simply as a good management practice).

The next step is making a match with another person in the organization who could spend a little time with this person each week, sharing their own expertise in an informal way. Now you have two happy employees, one who is giving and one who is learning. It doesn’t need to be the manager doing the mentoring, in fact I think it would be best if it were someone else to really encourage cross collaboration among your teams.

So think about a company where leaders, managers and employees alike are freely sharing their gifts, talents and experience with others who have an interest. What a great culture that would be and consequently the output of the company would likely be off the charts. How can you create this in your own company? All it takes is one person to start, and it can be anyone. Then sit back and watch as it continues to be paid forward.