Generosity: Leaders, Are Your Teams Uncomfortable w/ It?

Leaders, how do your team members feel about generosity? If you interviewed a potential employee with great skills and an exceedingly generous spirit, would you hire them? Would the existing team members be thrilled? Collaborating freely, giving 110%, supporting in difficult times — what’s not to like?

Generosity as a trait sure sounds like a dream come true. Then why have I witnessed so many negative reactions to generosity in the workplace? This issue is worth exploring. It affects employee engagement, teamwork, talent retention, future hiring, and of course — morale and end results.

Generosity: Image is picture with that word.

Leaders, Are You Uncomfortable With Generosity? Image by:Howard Lake

Image by Howard Lake via Creative Commons License.

The Complexities of Generosity

Generosity as a personal and professional trait takes those who display it and their organizations quite far.

  • Generosity lifts others up with ideas, information, resources, empathy and strength.
  • It paints a portrait of “we” instead of just “me”.
  • It develops everyone through the shared knowledge of each.
  • It fills gaps at just the right time to reach any goal.
  • It should breed the ultimate in collaboration and teamwork.

Uh-oh, back up. How did that should get in there?

Leaders and managers want to believe that a generous spirit breeds positive feelings and similarly generous reactions. And it can. But dreaming alone doesn’t make it so.

In truth, generosity can also:

  • Breed mistrust in those who haven’t worked with generous team players. e.g. “Are they for real?”
  • Ignite envy in those who haven’t yet tapped their own generous spirit or who burned it out. e.g. “Who do they think they are?”
  • Stir resentment among team members who think the generous ones are raising the performance bar. e.g. “Stop, you’re making us look bad.”
  • Awaken fear that generous team members will win promotions and perks over them. e.g. “They aren’t generous, they are kissing up.”

Leaders, You Can Cultivate the Benefits of Workplace Generosity

  1. Question yourself. Do you truly believe in collaboration or are you grounded in a competitive spirit? Collaborative cultures fuel generous spirits and generous people sustain a collaborative approach to success. Competitive team cultures can deliver success yet they can stifle workplace generosity and collaboration. Which culture do you want? Which one is your leadership style and your actions creating?

  2. Assess the team’s makeup. How well do the team members balance individual and team needs? Do they each think their main goal is to shine as they do their job? Are they all natural collaborators, competitors, or a mix? These work styles must blend to reach success and your leadership can foster this blend of me and we.

  3. Explore and discuss culture. Don’t assume. Leaders and teams falter when they assume everyone naturally balances me and we. Team building that raises and addresses this issue delivers a boost to team results.

  4. Be generous. Do you have a generous spirit? Do you give employees kudos on a regular basis or live the maxim, no news is good news? Being generous with your insight, knowledge, and feedback does more than model generosity. It spreads the culture as the teams realize how great generosity feels and how much it delivers to morale and to end results. Related post: 12 Worthy Kudos to Spark Employee Engagement

  5. Ask, learn, and clarify!

  6. Have the teams define what generosity is and isn’t. Is it offering help? Or is it helping only when asked? Is it jumping in and doing what you can even if it is defined another team member’s responsibility? What is the difference between generosity and intrusiveness? For teams who are learning collaboration, this step is the turning point.

  7. Find and remove the disincentives to generosity. If you want a generous collaborative culture, team rewards must be as significant and individual rewards. Make teamwork a tangible element of performance reviews. If you talk about collaboration, applaud it and decry self-serving actions. If you overlook it or make excuses for it, you will thwart the culture and undermine their trust in you.

Call to Action!

Generosity in the workplace is not just for non-profits. A culture of generosity magnifies your employee engagement efforts with the daily spirit of giving and collaboration.

Generous spirits break down silos and build bridges to new outcomes. They spread knowledge. Generous leaders and team members create a positive vibe that propels success especially in tough times of change.

Imagine an organization of knowledgeable, experienced, highly engaged, generous teams. Guess what — it can be real! Let’s make it happen together. I am here to help you as I have so many others.

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Other Posts of Interest:
Workplace Teamwork: Be Selfless & Giving Not Faceless & Fake
11 Steps to Be Authentic and Not Scare People Away

©2012-2024 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

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7 Responses to “Generosity: Leaders, Are Your Teams Uncomfortable w/ It?”

  1. Hi Kate

    Very good thought provoking blog. Completely agree with what you are saying and a good heads up for leaders who think kindness generosity etc will lead to increased employee engagement and performance. It will and can but needs to be managed, made part of the culture and most importantly seen as part of who the leaders are.

    Thanks for your blog

    Cheers Dean

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Thank you Dean.

      I continue to see the myth of “automatic culture” alive in organizations. It isn’t automatic and employee engagement benefits materialize when leaders work with teams to address a sustainable culture.

      Best wishes,

  2. Kent Julian says:

    The following line struck me most: “A culture of generosity magnifies your employee engagement efforts with the daily spirit of giving and collaboration”. I couldn’t agree more! And although that sounds sort of simple, we all know it’s not nearly as easy as it sounds. Still, it’s a major key to success in both life and work. Thanks Kate!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Kent,
      I appreciate your comment. Generating culture may not sound easy yet it is achievable when the leader lives it consistently everyday. It’s one of those things where you see progress in the beginning by looking back just a bit. Then one day you can see it happening in the now.


  3. Hi Kate!

    I’d say #7 is “Be generous with yourself.” Many team leaders I know really want to do a great job and can be harder on themselves than anyone around them. They take their learning and their roles very seriously and have a private bar that is much higher than anything they would automatically place on others. I know this isn’t everyone, but when such people begin to be more generous with themselves and can relax a little, their warmth comes through and they can help ameliorate some of the other reactions that you mentioned. A generous spirit who knows how to experience “I am okay” can also express and lead a team toward “we are okay.” Thank you, Kate!

  4. Very thought-provoking post. I particularly appreciate that you recognise that each team member could potentially have a different personal definition of generosity. Perhaps a number 7 for me would be to acknowledge that there may from time to time be a breakdown and that the team may occasionally fail in it’s attempts to be generous. In this case, acknowledging it could help the team to pull together and try again.

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