A few weeks ago, I attended the Compassion & Business Conference at Stanford University. I was curious about how people were thinking compassion fits into business and how to bring it into corporations. In the process, I learned some very interesting insights about compassion. One of the more surprising facts is that while receiving compassion is nice, practicing compassion for others can really increase your happiness.
Wharton professor Adam Grant described one research study in which Borders Inc. created an internal “United Way” program, where executives donated money and employee donations were matched. Any employee who had a financial need could apply for a grant. Now you would think that the people who received the grants would be extremely grateful and now be more loyal and committed to the company going forward.
But instead, they found that the employees who donated were the ones who became more loyal and committed. The explanation was that employees felt grateful to have an outlet for their compassion, and as they gave more, they got a sense of pride and saw Borders as a company with heart.
He shared another example of a call center which had 97% turnover because they had to deal with very difficult customer calls. A new program was implemented where every employee could make a wish and they created teams to make their wishes come true. The turnover rate dropped to 33% within 6 months.
Being part of a team that helps people realize their dreams has a tremendous effect. The important thing is that we have a choice about giving, feel connected to the people we help, and understand the impact we make.
The same is true outside of organizations. Psychology professor Elizabeth Dunn shared studies that have been conducted in which people were given between $5 and $20. One group was told to spend it on themselves, while another group was told to spend it on others. They found that people were happier when they spent it on others. The results were the same around the world, even in poorer areas.
In a more recent study, they repeated the experiment with a Starbucks gift card, and told a third group of people to use the money to buy something for someone else AND also hang out with them at Starbucks. It turns out that the third group was the happiest of them all, since it included 2 other happiness boosters.
First, we actually get more happiness from buying experiences rather than material things, as dozens of studies show. Second, social contact and connection increases our happiness, too.
So compassion and happiness is only a step away. And it can be as simple as treating someone to coffee!
For more information about Adam Grant, see https://mgmt.wharton.upenn.edu/profile/1323/research
For more information about Elizabeth Dunn, check out http://dunn.psych.ubc.ca/
Manuela believes in compassion (including self-compassion) and loves helping others bring more happiness into their lives! You can visit Manuela’s Website for Professional Life Coaching and Personal Growth Workshops.