Fri, March 29 2013
Filed under: Fun stuff •
When we think about what motivates people at work, some cliches come out. Money? Maybe. Power? Perhaps. But as someone working for a mission you know it’s something else—altruism.
But what may surprise you is this isn’t just a truism in the nonprofit sector. It works in most places.
This past Sunday, the New York Times had a fascinating magazine profile of Adam Grant, the youngest-tenured and highest rated professor at Wharton. Grant focuses on workplace psychology and the effects of altruism in your career. His research shows generosity at work is a strong motivator that spurs increased productivity and creativity. Helping others, it seems, helps ourselves. (As a person, Grant is radically generous, spending hours a day helping students, colleagues and strangers for the sake of being useful to others.)
Early in his career, Grant worked with a demoralized call center to show the positive effects of altruism. Since one of the center’s purposes was funding scholarships, Grant had a student who benefited from the fundraising efforts speak to the telemarketers for ten minutes. The student told the callers how the scholarship had changed his life - and how he was headed off to work for Teach for America. A month later, the call center reported workers were on the phone 142 percent more and raising 171 more. A follow up found revenues had rocketed up 400 percent. Grant concludes the greatest untapped source of motivation is service to others. This reminds me of Daniel Pink’s writing on a higher purpose being a powerful professional motivator.
Maybe that’s why there is research suggesting that the first instinct of humans is to contribute to the greater good at their own expense. We’re wired to do what motivates us to do our best.
In my own work at Network for Good, where we not only support nonprofits like yours but also seek to help companies bring philanthropy into the workplace, we find these ideas hold true. Allowing employees to do good for others builds loyalty, increases job satisfaction and boosts morale. Giving rewards to employees like charity vouchers have been documented to make people happier and more satisfied with their jobs.
We know giving makes us happy. Maybe it makes all of us more motivated - and successful - too.