Living Generously in the Corporate World

In a recent rush-hour subway commute, I was struck by an inscription on a fellow commuter’s shirt. It simply said, “Live Generously.” As I continued my harried trek to the office, I thought about that phrase and the what it meant to the person wearing it…Be kind to the poor? Mentor someone? Smile and say hello to a stranger? About the time I made the turn into my building’s elevator, it occurred to me that the shirt did exactly what it was supposed to do…it created an internal dialogue about one’s own practice of generosity. I thought about my own mantra; “generosity before greed” and how I apply this to my own work in corporate leadership, every day. You may ask whether it’s possible to live generously in the corporate world and whether it can be applied successfully while still climbing the corporate ladder….YES!! In fact, I think the best leaders achieve their success by doing this very thing.

It seems like the default attitude in many corporate environments is “What have you done for me lately?” In the quest to advance, build wealth, and garner the big corner office, many individuals treat coworkers like commodities, that is, a means to the end of success. When you’re working in this type of culture, it’s difficult to trust people. When your coworker suddenly shows a significant interest in your life and your work projects, you can’t help but wonder, “What do they want from me?” Imagine a different paradigm. How would our environment change if we made investments in the people we work with every day? Or even those who casually come in and out of our work day? Would our businesses and our individualized sense of work satisfaction improve if we started living generously at work? Most definitely.

One of the greatest ways to demonstrate your commitment to generosity in the corporate world begins with the practice of active listening. Face it, we all work with a coworker who sucks the oxygen out of a room by talking incessantly and offering input and “expertise” on every subject, across all areas of the business. The alternative is the active listener who takes the time to hear various points of view, sharing feedback and counterpoints in a balanced, responsive manner. Sharing the stage with our coworkers – giving them space to articulate their approaches, solutions, and critiques – communicates a generosity of respect. Respect breeds respect. People who feel heard are far more likely to actively listen to the inputs from other members of the team. Now the paradigm shift is underway.

Living generously in the workplace also entails creating authentic bonds with your colleagues. Learn the stories of your colleagues. Break bread, grab a drink, ask about their family, their pets or hobbies. And how about this simple one…respond to emails, make the commitment to your colleagues as you do to your clients – be responsive, be supportive and help find them solutions. Isn’t the job a lot more enjoyable when you feel connected to, and supported by your coworkers?

Additionally, sharing the successes is a vital, albeit challenging, tenet of living generously in the workplace. When our project or sales targets are achieved, we all appreciate the accolades. After all, our blood, sweat, and tears led to the victory, and the victory may lead to our promotion, a pay raise or bonus, etc. Enjoy the spotlight, you’ve earned it. But, also praise those who supported the journey. The intern who helped with your visuals, the entry-level copywriter who edited your white paper, and the tech who performed an emergency keyboard replacement after spilling your morning tea – they all contributed to your victory. Thank them, publicly praise them, and share some of the spoils of the win.

Live generously. That’s quite a unique mantra for the corporate world. While many high achievers will have “Look out for #1” in their DNA, there is no reason to relegate coworkers and subordinates to the position of commodity. We are emotional and relational beings; cultivating relationships in the office makes us healthier, happier people. Listen, be authentic, and share your success. Your generosity will cultivate generosity and success in others.

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