5 Ways to Create a Culture of Giving at Work

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5 Ways to Create a Culture of Giving at Work

Ever wish your workforce gave more? Gave more thanks to one another? Gave more help to others in solving work problems? Gave more of their time to develop and mentor others? Imagine how different our workplaces would be if everyone was more of a giver.

As we approach the season of giving and thanks, it's an ideal time to reflect on how much we are giving at work in terms of our time, talents, and contributions to others, and how we are creating a culture and work environment where giving is valued, and ultimately, where "givers" thrive. Giving is the essence and backbone of a truly great place to work.

There has been quite a bit of conversation in the workplace in 2013 about "givers" with a great deal of research supporting that an attitude of giving as well as altruistic behaviors make organizations more successful in the long-run, particularly the studies of Adam Grant, the author of the bestselling book, "Give and Take."

Giving at work is now considered the critical third metric of business and is associated with more organizational success including higher profitability, productivity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. Giving is also linked to more individual success. People who rise to the highest levels tend to add the most value to others and advance everyone's interests. Likewise, givers share credit, connections, and knowledge; and as a result, they are more admired and respected, and more likely to achieve their goals.

Here are five (5) easy ways to create a giving work environment and make everyone in your workplace more of a giver.

1. Encourage the right behaviors.

Continually encourage both leaders and employees to help others achieve their goals, put others first, share knowledge and information, solve problems and challenges, make introductions, mentor others, share wisdom and creativity, do favors, "wow" the customer, and generously give of themselves and their time to others.

This also includes communication. Listening more than talking, advice-seeking versus self-promoting, asking questions versus asserting, and speaking tentatively are all forms of powerless communication that should be embraced and practiced regularly in the workplace. They tend to be others-centered and focused on learning more about others and their needs to better help them.

2. Make appreciation central.

Core to being a giver is giving credit where credit is due. Make sincere appreciation, thanks, acknowledgment, and gratitude for what others do central to your workplace. Celebrate successes and provide frequent rewards and recognition. This includes leaders thanking employees, employees thanking each other, and everyone thanking customers.

3. Support the giver.  

Your givers need support. Recognize that givers don't like to look selfish so they may not advocate for their own interests or needs. They likely won't ask for raises or higher bonuses or push you for promotions because they usually aren't ladder-climbers. In addition, they may sacrifice too much to help others, and are more likely to burn out. They can get taken advantage of by others who don't use their time wisely.

To that end, leaders should coach employees to be smart about their giving, help protect their work time from people who waste it, reward them with raises and promotions when rightly earned without making them ask or negotiate for them, and support givers as best they can with their unique challenges.

4. Design systems that make giving the norm.

Many of our systems in the workplace are not designed to encourage giving. For example, promoting based on the wrong criteria; creating win-lose contests; using forced ranking performance review systems; creating competitive bonus pools that pit employees against each other; and not monitoring the means used to achieve results are systems that will make giving difficult.

Instead, the following systems can encourage and promote giving in the workplace:

  • Recognizing, rewarding, and promoting givers
  • Establishing accountability for giving through performance reviews
  • Making sure givers don't lose
  • Designing mechanisms to give (mentor programs, recognition initiatives, etc.)
  • Hiring and selecting people with giver qualities

5. Look for and value the givers in the background.

We always tend to see the strategic people in our businesses. They are those setting strategy, delegating tasks, and in places of visibility and prominence. But we don't always see those who are driving all of the results behind those people, those doing the day-to-day work, and those who are giving of themselves to their coworkers and often outpouring themselves for the benefit of the organization.

Givers frequently hide out in the background, and as a result, they are less likely to be noticed for their effort and impact. They are often quiet leaders and dutiful followers. That's why it's important to regularly seek these individuals out and tell/show them you value them because they will often feel unnoticed. Because they are givers by nature, they generally won't draw attention to themselves and what they are doing.


Business is changing. Research now shows that the true pathway to organizational and personal success lies in giving and making a difference in the lives of others. Zero-sum, win-lose thinking doesn't work anymore, and true success lies in altruism. As leaders and HR professionals, we're positioned to drive a "giving" culture in our workplaces, exemplify what it means to be givers, and support the givers in our organizations.

As your organization embarks on the season of giving and thanks, be sure to focus on how you can become even greater givers at work individually as well as a more giving organization, “For it is in giving that we receive.”

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