Recently, my home state of Arkansas was hit by a very strong snow storm (12 inches in my hometown of Hot Springs). Many were without power for days. Travelers were stranded. Just as I write in my book about when I was stranded in New York City during the 3-day power outage a number of years ago, these situations can bring out the best and the worst of humanity. Many good Samaritans emerged, and sadly many opportunities for kindness and generosity were missed. Does this reality present itself in our workplaces, too? Does it matter?
It seems obvious to me that it certainly does happen, and it does matter – for more than one reason. First, in a recent article numerous studies were referenced proving that helping others boosts happiness-producing brain chemicals which provide an emotional rush known as “helper’s high.” This boost is contagious. When employees help others it has been proven that it goes viral, so to speak, and the entire workplace culture shifts into a “pay it forward” effect. The results were self-evident – sales were up, customer satisfaction was up, and employee satisfaction was the highest it had ever been. Secondly, the boost in our psyche translates into better overall health. We need fewer drugs (painkillers, alcohol, etc.), and we tend to actually live longer! All this has been quantified in countless studies which is simply astounding. Talk about ROI!!
So what holds us back from simply being nice and fair to each other at work, in our organizations, and in life in general? Why is it that sometimes we literally will stand by and do nothing when we are clearly needed? Amazingly, the same studies share that the same brain wiring that encourages the do-gooders also will penalize us if we choose to help the “wrong people”…those that we deem as outsiders, not “like us,” or folks simply not in our tribe. Also, we are taught from an early age the survival of the fittest model and the competitive nature of Capitalism. We are conditioned to believe that achievement and “getting” is the key to happiness – versus fulfillment and giving. We are scared that there may not be enough – so we hold back.
The fallacy is that these scenarios are not mutually exclusive. Amazingly – when we give, we get. When we share, we receive. When others excel, so do we. I have been the recipient of kindnesses and unimaginable generosity in the workplace. Those are the leaders I valued and revered. They are the ones I would have followed into a fire – and did on more than one occasion. They were also the most successful, fulfilled, and respected.
So, what is the takeaway? What if we simply started small in 2013 and made a conscious decision to help just one person a day? What if we chose just one person that may initially be hard to help? We could look for what we have in common and hold tight to that commonality. Some incidents may be easier than others – that goes without saying. Yet, what would happen if we pushed ourselves to go that extra icy mile to help and share even when it feels uncomfortable…trusting that the “helper’s high” – that Giant B12 shot – will be just what the doctor ordered? And the best part is we can give ourselves the B12 shot…no doctor’s appointment required.
What do you think?