This week I have been in the USA with Dr Cialdini and the INFLUENCE AT WORK TEAM. It has really provided me with a lot of focus and further context around the fields of Influence and Persuasion. One insight I gained is associated with the Principle of Reciprocity and Giving.
I have never considered this before but Reciprocity is really the principle of life. It allows people to build relationships, for businesses to thrive, and for communities to prosper.
We also know that Reciprocity is triggered by the giving of gifts. But the question is…
“Are all gifts the same?”
Take the following example,
Peter works at a family owned business and really enjoys the extra perks the business provides. Lunch is available daily as is a fully stocked snack and beverage refrigerator which can be accessed at any time.
If Peter perceives that the extra perks are only provided so he doesn’t leave his desk, meaning he can work longer hours and is continually reminded what the business does for him – this is a bribe.
If the perks are looked upon as something that has always been provided and is a right of everyone who works at the business – this is an entitlement.
If the perks are only topped up at the end of each month if the team hits their numbers – this is a reward.
If the perks are given with no expectation of return and are provided because the office recognises it is not that close to convenience or grocery stores – this is a gift.
Therefore the nature to which something triggers Reciprocity is linked to the intent with which it is given but also the perception of the intent by the recipient.
If something is seen as a gift this is likely to trigger the obligation and in the above case Peter is more likely to work harder and cut the business some slack if there is a lack of support for things he wants done because what they have done for him.
If the action is seen as a reward, Peter may work harder to keep his benefits, but if he knows that due to the activities of others he won’t get the reward this month, will he stop trying?
If the perks are given by way of bribe this is problematic because the business is simply buying loyalty and compliance and in harder financial times this may be harder to maintain hence performance may become very irregular. However the bribe may have deeper implications. If Peter perceives that the perks are a bribe and this is an appropriate tactic to get things done within the business, recent research suggests this may impact at a deeper level, that of the acceptance of unethical culture within the business. Therefore Peter may bribe his suppliers, other staff, etc. because “that’s how it is done around here”. So be very careful about how your efforts are perceived.
Finally if you want to see if Peter sees the perks as an entitlement – just take it away and see what happens. If Peter and his colleagues get angry they are seeing the perks as something they are “entitled to’ and therefore will not reciprocate because it is a right of working at the business.
Therefore when giving to staff or others, be clear about your intent for giving. If you have free water in a waiting area don’t put the refrigerator in clear view where people can just help themselves. Have the water behind the counter and as people come into the business, make reference to it being a warm day outside and offer them a cool drink. This is a gift. You went first and it is customised to the customer based on environmental conditions. If the water is in the waiting area it may be seen as an entitlement or a right in doing business with you.
Show your work. Let people know you are thinking about them and are providing the gift as a result of their situation. Although do not labour the point and make them feel guilty for receiving it. Give with no expectation of return and watch your relationship build as a result.
In case above, Peter realises the family business provides the lunch, snacks and beverages for the workers because times are tough and getting time to make a healthy lunch while juggling family, commute times, etc. was hard. Most employees were spending money on fast food but they were losing time out of their lunch break because they had to travel to get something. So when they got back they were often stressed and their diet was not helping them. To mix it up the business changes the menu regularly and have a theme for each month telling staff they want to help them have a healthy and happy time at work.
To show their clear intent the sign in the meal room says “That’s what family do for one and other – here’s to another great day”.
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