While reciprocity is part of our moral code as individuals, in organizational settings, efforts, favors and loyalty are not acknowledged enough.
But if reciprocity is so common an occurrence in our daily lives, why is it ignored in the workplace?
Jeffrey Pfeffer, a Stanford professor, along with doctoral student Peter Belmi, conducted some research to dive into this exact question.
The study compared how people reacted to simple favors in business settings versus personal settings.
How Important Are You to Me Professionally?
During their research, Pfeffer and Belmi discovered that when a favor is done at work, the level of reciprocation from people is based on how important the favor-doer is to them professionally.
Even when it came to personal favors at work, the researchers realized that having business on the mind influenced how people reciprocated.
The research found that people wanted to do favors for people who could offer strategic/specific benefit to their career in the foreseeable future.
Another reason people are hesitant to reciprocate at work is because they are unsure whether the favor was genuine or tainted with other motivations.
When the researchers compared these findings to the results they got from studying favors in participants’ personal lives, the outcomes couldn’t have been more different.
When someone did a personal favor, the other person would reciprocate regardless of whether the person provided future usefulness to them or not. This was almost the exact opposite to what was found in the organizational context, Pfeffer said.
As a Manager, Not Reciprocating Causes Problems
Studies show that when employees feel like their managers/companies renege on their promises, or do not reciprocate favors, hard work and loyalty – they are more likely to quit. They will also be less productive, engaged and committed.
Pfeffer recommends that managers/leaders/companies should:
- Cut back on the calculative way of handling employees and properly acknowledge/reciprocate positive behavior.
- Be careful what you promise or imply, whether formally or informally. Because once you communicate something, you should do whatever is possible to deliver on that promise.
This will go a long way to help you develop a motivated, loyal and high-performing team.