Generosity – the quality of being kind, unselfish, and helpful. And to study it, psychologists asked people to perform five random acts of kindness every day for six weeks. They were assigned to either ‘sprinkling’ or ‘chunking’ their acts of kindness. Sprinkling meant spreading them out by doing one a day. Chunking meant picking one day for all five acts. Which group of participants, do you think, felt happier with their generosity?
You might say it was the ‘sprinkling’ group. 80% of people believe so. However, it is the ‘chunking’ group that experienced more happiness and energy. Why? Because being giving every day is exhausting. Plus, it is easy to forget about the one act of kindness per day. Five in one day is way more memorable.
What does this mean for generosity in the workplace?
Leaders the world over share that to build a meaningful, successful career, we need to help others. It also makes us more creative! Such messages form the underlying theme of two-thirds of graduation speeches. Thus, many employees become givers, and add immense value. A study revealed that when CFOs agreed with statements like “The CEO cares more about the organization’s success than his/ her own,” their firms had significantly higher returns on assets in the following quarter.
Yet, such givers experience overload, fatigue, fall behind on their work goals, and face more stress/ conflict at home. Why? Because we believe that giving is a virtue that we need to practice 24/7, and hence, we selflessly put others’ needs before us. This happens in the form of responding to adhoc requests. How often are such requests made? 75% – 90% of the time.
In a recent study, researchers surveyed employees every day for three weeks. The more times people responded to help requests from coworkers in a day, the more their energy was depleted — and the more trouble they had focusing their attention or problem solving. Since such employees consistently demonstrate the motivation and ability to lend a hand, they get the bulk of requests. The result is that they are at risk of burnout or attrition, their colleagues are frustrated by a lack of access to the help they need, and other employees who could be helping, find themselves idle.
However, we don’t want you to stop giving or being generous at work. On any given day, generosity is a powerful practice, and is known to positively impact employees’ happiness and performance, business growth, as well as strengthening people’s sense of purpose. But, as it goes, there is a right way to be generous so you don’t burnout. Stay tuned for our next post to find out more.