Monthly Archives: December 2012

The art of generosity – Is giving better than receiving?

It’s the festive period, everybody is busy buying something for the people who are important to them. But, is giving better than receiving? Are you someone who prefers to give or are you someone who prefers to receive?

I came across David Freemantle’s book called ‘How to become the  most wanted employee’, recommended to me by Grace Vanterpool, a guest speaker on the Leadership Empowerment Programme I regularly deliver. One of the suggested tips was to:

“Give something away each day” – my take away was to implement this one action. I began to consciously think about giving something away each day, be this knowledge, time, an item or just saying thank you.

Today the glow at work team had their first Christmas lunch at Dishoom. I want to thank all the team for their contributions – they have all demonstrated the concept of giving without asking for anything in return (all working as interns). We have been developing our strategy and come up with a mission we are all working towards.


Our mission is to: “empower people from within and transform organisations, in order to help the working population achieve more meaningful, satisfying and glowing careers. In doing so, we believe we can also have a positive impact on other areas of people’s lives, helping to achieve a society with a better quality of life. Hence, we are serving a purpose that is greater than ourselves by building strong collaborative partnerships in order to effectively meet this very important objective.”

The research also shows us 5 Ways that Giving Is Good for You (from Jason Marsh, editor in chief of Greater Good & Jill Suttie, Greater Good’s book review editor)

1. Giving makes us feel happy. A 2008 study by Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton and colleagues, found that giving money to someone else lifted participants’ happiness more that spending it on themselves (despite participants’ prediction that spending on themselves would make them happier). Happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, saw similar results when she asked people to perform five acts of kindness each week for six weeks.

These good feelings are reflected in our biology. In a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health found that when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect. Scientists also believe that altruistic behaviour releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.”

2. Giving is good for our health. A wide range of research has linked different forms of generosity to better health, even among the sick and elderly. In his book, Why Good Things Happen to Good People, Stephen Post, a professor of preventative medicine at Stony Brook University, reports that giving to others has been shown to increase health benefits in people with chronic illness, including HIV and multiple sclerosis.

A 1999 study led by Doug Oman of the University of California, Berkeley, found that elderly people who volunteered for two or more organizations were 44 percent less likely to die over a five-year period than were non-volunteers. This effect remained even after controlling for their age, exercise habits, general health, and negative health habits like smoking. Stephanie Brown of the University of Michigan saw similar results in a 2003 study on elderly couples. She and her colleagues found that those individuals who provided practical help to friends, relatives, or neighbours, or gave emotional support to their spouses, had a lower risk of dying over a five-year period than those who didn’t. Interestingly, receiving help wasn’t linked to a reduced death risk.

Researchers suggest that one reason giving may improve physical health and longevity is that it helps decrease stress, which is associated with a variety of health problems. In a 2006 study by Rachel Piferi of Johns Hopkins University and Kathleen Lawler of the University of Tennessee, people who provided social support to others had lower blood pressure than participants who didn’t, suggesting a direct physiological benefit to those who give of themselves.

3. Giving promotes cooperation and social connection. When you give, you’re more likely to get back. Several studies, including work by sociologists Brent Simpson and Robb Willer, have suggested that when you give to others, your generosity is likely to be rewarded by others down the line—sometimes by the person you gave to, sometimes by someone else.

These exchanges promote a sense of trust and cooperation that strengthens our ties to others—and research has shown that having positive social interactions is central to good mental and physical health. As researcher John Cacioppo writes in his book, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, “The more extensive the reciprocal altruism born of social connection . . . the greater the advance toward health, wealth, and happiness.”

What’s more, when we give to others, we don’t only make them feel closer to us; we also feel closer to them. “Being kind and generous leads you to perceive others more positively and more charitably,” writes Lyubomirsky in her book, The How of Happiness.  This “fosters a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation in your social community.”

4. Giving evokes gratitude. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of a gift, that gift can elicit feelings of gratitude—it can be a way of expressing gratitude or instilling gratitude in the recipient. And research has found that gratitude is integral to happiness, health, and social bonds.

Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, co-directors of the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness, found that teaching college students to “count their blessings” and cultivate gratitude caused them to exercise more, be more optimistic, and feel better about their lives overall. A recent study led by Nathaniel Lambert at Florida State University found that expressing gratitude to a close friend or romantic partner strengthens our sense of connection to that person.

Barbara Fredrickson, a pioneering happiness researcher, suggests that cultivating gratitude in everyday life is one of the keys to increasing personal happiness. “When you express your gratitude in words or actions, you not only boost your own positivity but [other people’s] as well,” she writes in her book, Positivity. She goes on to write, “and in the process you reinforce their kindness and strengthen your bond to one another.”

5. Giving is contagious. When we give, we don’t only help the immediate recipient of our gift. We also spur a ripple effect of generosity through our community.
A study by James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that when one person behaves generously, it inspires observers to behave generously later, toward different people. In fact, the researchers found that altruism could spread by three degrees—from person to person to person to person. “As a result,” they write, “each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she does not know and has not met.”

Giving has also been linked to the release of oxytocin, a hormone (also released during sex and breast feeding) that induces feelings of warmth, euphoria, and connection to others. In laboratory studies, Paul Zak, the director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, has found that a dose of oxytocin will cause people to give more generously and to feel more empathy towards others, with “symptoms” lasting up to two hours. And those people on an “oxytocin high” can potentially jumpstart a “virtuous circle, where one person’s generous behavior triggers another’s,” says Zak.

What small thing can you give away today to help someone else? An ancient Ubuntu saying from Africa can help us to reframe our thinking about who we are; “I am what I am because of who we all are.” Most successful people have a team of supporters around them. If we all acknowledged each other a bit more and showed compassion for others at work, we could achieve so much more.

If you are looking for more suggestions, go to the acts of kindness advent calendar…because it’s better to give than receive

Happy Christmas & New Year to you all from the Glow at Work team

Harpal Dhatt- Chief Executive Glow at Work

Follow me on twitter @Glowatwork

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Professor Adrian Furnham @ the Glow at work network Masterclass – 24th January 2013: Management Incompetence: Why Managers Fail and Derail?

adrian furnham

Glow at work is very excited to be hosting the closest thing to a ‘household’ name within the field of Occupational/Business Psychology in January. Professor Furnham is a true scientist-practitioner, with over 1000 published articles and 50 books, his wide ranging research interests are complemented by his consultancy work with international organisations. I had the pleasure of hearing an extremely entertaining and thought provoking presentation earlier this year by Adrian at a Psychometrics Forum Conference. As he jokingly referred to himself as a management “guru”, in relation to his articles in the FT, the Guardian and the Sunday Times, he engaged the audience with a chorus of ice-breaking jokes and instantly had us in the palm of his hands. Something to look forward to in January; not only his vast and ranging knowledge of leadership, personality and management but also, his incredibly charismatic style and sharp wit. Adrian discussed the ‘dark’ side of personality and management derailment, two fascinating and interlinked areas. Without giving too much material away, I’d like to give you a taster of some of the issues Professor Furnham emphasised. The rest and more, can be discovered at our Masterclass at the Queen’s Club, London on the 24th January. So book your places early to avoid missing out on what promises to be a great event.

During the introduction, two key points were eloquently expressed by Adrian, as take-home messages. The first was the need for ‘selecting-out’ in recruitment, which referred to the process of looking for traits, qualities or characteristics which you don’t want for a leadership role and eliminating candidates on this basis. This should accompany a ‘select-in’ process, more commonly used, where competencies are set and more evidence of these competencies is advantageous for the candidate in their bid for a vacancy. Secondly, too much of a good thing, is a bad thing. This refers to the idea that extremes of personality traits, based on the Eysenckian Spectrum Hypothesis that they are normally distributed, are abnormal. The key is curvilinearity. An optimum is what is desired, hence too little is incompetence, while too much is derailing.

Adrian later went on to describe his perfect leadership personality profile, based on the Big Five Factors of Personality. You may be surprised at what he asserted, which was very much driven by the abundant research into The Big Five. For those of you familiar with The Big Five, what would you say makes the perfect leader (a little reminder of the traits; Extraversion, Neuroticism, Openness, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness)? No spoiler alert needed. I won’t reveal the profile here, but it did spark a heated debate in a room full of Big Five personality practitioners.

The final part of the talk saw Adrian discuss personality disorders, such as anti-social or psychopathic disorders. The latter were characterised by a lack of remorse, narcissism – associated with grandiose and power need, paranoia – which could be good in some sectors i.e. security, schizoid – which was linked to creative types, histrionic (which Adrian jokingly compared himself to) and finally OCD i.e. the perfectionist. Ultimately, research showed that the higher individuals scored in these personality disorders, the more likely they were to derail as leaders.

If the presentation from earlier this year is anything to go on, let alone his years of experience and obvious thirst for innovation in research, this Masterclass will take us on an unparalleled journey through the complexities of personality and highlight how this powerful construct has the potential to take a turn towards the dark side. I’ll be sitting front and center and hope to see many of you there too. Please see our news and events page to book your place today;

Stay railed,


Trainee Occupational Psychologist

Follow me on Twitter: @Raj_Glowatwork

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