In the American workplace, there’s a traditional idea that the best way to praise an employee is strictly through financial rewards - employees receive a regular paycheck, what more could they need? It can even go so far as to say employees who receive recognition in the form of written or oral praise will get “soft” overtime.
For young people searching for jobs today, it’s almost impossible to avoid companies trying to lure them in with office perks like game rooms, massage chairs, and yoga classes. And all these things sound fantastic, especially when you’re fresh out of college dorms, where forty people are sharing three showers and you can hear your next-door neighbor snoring through the wall.
Silicon Valley is particularly notorious for providing employees with a swath of benefits and perks from free meals and snacks every day to in-house barber shops and dental offices. Companies like Facebook and Google draw in thousands of new employees, largely by offering an array of perks that appeal to the generations who have come to expect convenience and comfort.
Younger generations tend to receive a fair amount of criticism for their obsessions with instant-gratification-based systems like social media and video games. There’s this idea that somehow, older generations were wired to be more patient while technology has fundamentally corrupted the young mind beyond repair.
Most of us are familiar with differing priorities among departments in an office and how that can impact the inner workings of a company. While management is more focused on developing practices that increase productivity and profit, Human Resources is often dedicated to employee well-being. Michael and Toby’s tumultuous relationship in the hit TV sitcom The Office demonstrates this dichotomy perfectly; it’s one we have seen time and again.
It isn’t without reason that this parody exists. Oftentimes, new managerial practices can have trade-offs that are detrimental to certain aspects of employee well-being, whether it be psychological, physical, or social well-being. Rather than argue one set of priorities is more important than another, it’s more important to recognize that happiness, health, and human relationships are related, and their optimization leads to better overall outcomes for company success.
You know that “warm glow” you feel when you demonstrate an act of kindness without expecting anything in return? Well, a team of researchers discovered that that particular feeling is quite different than when you expect a reward for your kind act.
Our brains are designed to be social. And social relationships have always been at the heart of our survival and our happiness. From humans’ earliest days, we have relied on one another and helped one another and our bodies evolved to reward us for these acts of kindness. Kindness is one of our biggest strengths as humans and was crucial to our survival as a species. In fact, Dr. Daniel Campbell-Meiklejohn, the lead of a recent study published in NeuroImage, shared that “the decision to share resources is a cornerstone of any cooperative society.”