A workplace culture of giving

Alfred Tora

An aspect of the Pacific culture that I love is how communal-centric it is!

The concept of sharing and giving is imprinted onto us like the dark black and brown inks that dance across our tapa, nga’atu or masi, providing rich detail and design to an otherwise plain canvas.

We give respect to our elders and chiefs. We lend a hand to our less fortunate family members. We give our talents over for the greater good! So why is it hard for us, as business leaders and “people” professionals, to promote this culture of giving in our organisations?

Current research in western studies have shown how creating a work environment where being a “giver” is valued, has increased efficiency, productivity, profitability and customer satisfaction.

 A “new-age” idea that has been embedded in our culture since its beginning and continues to be a part of our lives today!

So how can we, as Pacific organisations, apply this “Culture of Giving” into our workspace and what are the benefits that come with this?

I hope that you will find the strategies below to be thought-provoking as well as something you would implement in your organisation!

Creating Systems that Value Giving

Most of the business systems that exist today do nothing to support the culture of giving but rather promote and value takers.

Examples of these are the common forced-ranking performance reviews, win-lose contests and pitting employees against each other. These may have short-term gains, but are not sustainable.

In contrast to these systems, we could:

• Develop low-cost programs for giving (eg. mentorships)

• Design performance reviews to account for giving

• Reward and recognise givers.

Appreciation As a Central Value

Have the insight to give credit where credit is due. It doesn’t take a lot for people to feel appreciated, a little acknowledgment here, a little praise there is all it takes.

For someone who is committed to the vision of the company, that extra boost of getting recognised for all the time and effort they put into the organization does wonders!

Beware though! In order for this to work, appreciation needs to be deserved and authentic when given.

Identify And Reward Background Givers

There are those in any organisation that prefer to contribute from the background without thought to praise, promotions or rewards. These “silent givers” put in the hard work daily and almost always pass the accolades up to the high-flying superstars who are happy to bask in the limelight.

It is so important that these silent givers are identified and rewarded. They often feel unnoticed, and it really doesn’t take much to show that you value them. They, with their experience and knowledge, have immense strategic value to the organisation and holding on to these B-Players will reap rewards in the future.

The horizons that once limited the world of business are slowly being pushed further and further along and having the right mindset and people in your organisation has been proven to be essential if you want to keep up.

We, as Pacific Islanders and those that are blessed to call the Pacific our home, have these concept ingrained into our culture and everyday lives.

So why have we been late in implementing this culture into our organisations?

 I believe there are cultural and psychological barriers that are unique to us as members of the Pacific Island communities.

Cultural Misconception of Leadership

We, as business and people leaders, need to confront the hard truth that we may not have all the answers required of us!

We were taught that our elders were all-knowing which has made us believe, unrightfully so, that you needed to be the smartest and most knowledgeable person in your organisation or team. This isn’t the case!

Don’t get me wrong, intelligence has been shown to be a necessary trait for a leader, but you do not have to be all-knowing. Giving over that sense of power to those with the necessary knowledge is not a sign of weakness, in fact, it’s  the exact opposite in the eyes of your team members.

Fear of Being Caught Out

Call it human nature, but when we’re faced with the possibility of gaining praise or sharing it, we opt for the former. It’s completely natural to want to bask in the glory for the work that your team did under your leadership, right?

When we have a culture of giving, praise and reward needs to be given to members of the team that actually deserve it. Not only does that boost the motivation of the team, but it also magnifies your image as a competent leader to your superiors!

Transformation begins when someone has the courage to initiate it and who better to do that than you!

Alfred Tora is a Tongan-born Fijian currently residing in the desert state of Utah, USA. He’s a student at the University of London, working towards a MSc in Organizational Psychology. This is an abridged version of posts that appeared on his blog