Unleashing the spirit of generosity at work

Business 29th March 2021

The more collaborative we are in our approach to work, the more productive we are. This statement isn’t the product of idle speculation. Research by the Academy of Management has shown this to be true.

If they take a mutually co-operative approach to work, people perform more effectively and are more creative. They enjoy their work more and are generally more satisfied with their careers. They benefit from more robust work relationships and are more committed to their employers. This means better retention, as well as less hassle and expense with recruitment and on-boarding. Businesses save money and are more profitable.

You just have to ask

So what’s the big secret to unleashing the spirit of generosity in the workplace. It’s simple. People have to get into the habit of asking for what they need. It might seem obvious, but surveys show that 70-90% of the help that is given is in response to requests for help. Without requests, little happens.

The clever part is making sure that everyone understands that the rules of the game stipulate, ‘You need help? Then ask for it.’

Here are some workplace practices designed to foster the habit of asking for giving support –

1. Be a role model. It starts at the top. Are you a department head or CEO? You can kick-start the culture of generosity by asking for help. You’ll then create an environment in which everyone feels comfortable speaking up and being vulnerable. Others will follow suit.

2. The 20-minute rule. Make it a workplace rule that no one works alone for more than 20 minutes on any single problem before asking for advice from colleagues.

3. The Troika. This works well with groups of three employees but works with more too. They meet regularly – at the same time on the same day each week – either face-to-face or remotely. Each describes a current challenge or issue. The others respond using the renowned SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) criteria.

4. An informal huddle. This works like the Troika but is spontaneous and less formal. You have a problem – you summon two or more colleagues for the huddle.

5. The daily stand-up. This is where everyone in the department stands in a circle (or gathers virtually). Each person addresses three points – what they worked on yesterday, what they’re working on today, and what help they need. These are speedier than huddles and just focus on those three topics. The stand-up can work with large numbers of employees and still only take 10 or 15 minutes. Staff stay informed, help one another, and connect emotionally.

6. Sharing problems asynchronously. In other words, not ‘live’ but using pre-determined channels other than meetings to identify and discuss problems that might require some help to solve. One example would be to write the problem on a whiteboard in a public part of the workplace. Then there would be a weekly meeting at which each problem could be raised formally, discussed and then resolved. In a remote scenario, virtual whiteboards can be used in the same way.

7. Cross-collaboration workshops. This is where two distinct departments whose disciplines have synergy come together for regular meetings, each sharing the issues with the other. For example, in the motorsport sector, one department could be the racing department, operating on a short timeframe.

Each week, they fix the car and get it back on the racetrack for the next week. The other might be advanced engineering – always thinking long-term, maybe up to 10 years ahead. At their regular cross-collaboration workshop, they would talk about the work they were doing and what they had learned and ask for and give help to one another.

An example of this working in practice might be that advanced engineering learned how to get parts quickly because that was a problem that had already been solved by the racing team.

Each of these seven practices can be used individually or in combination. By creating regular, structured opportunities for asking, giving, and receiving, they accelerate generosity in the workplace. Try it. You might be surprised at how fruitful the new-found spirit of generosity will be for your workplace.


How creative are your workplace relations? Are you doing all you can to keep your people engaged with their ideas, their colleagues and with your company? Here at Gravitas HR, we’ll support you with your employee retention strategy.

For straight-talking HR advice – 01604 763494

Or email – info@GravitasHR.co.uk

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