I write these articles not because I expect praise, but because I enjoy voicing my opinion and perspective on topics dear to my heart in the hopes that it helps others. And this preceding statement is exactly the purpose and topic of today’s post. Why it is important to help others, and how do we go about it.
We can start this topic off with the ‘why’ part of this question. The short answer is that helping others releases a chemical in our heads that make us feel good. The released hormone oxytocin boosts the mood and balances out stress hormones like cortisol. Finally, the beautiful thing about oxytocin is that it functions on a positive feedback loop, whereby when you help others, oxytocin is released, which in turn makes you want to help others more, and so on. Now, of course everything should be done in moderation, but our world is arranged in a way where we don’t allow this hormone to be released as often as nature intended.
When humans were developing tens of thousands of years ago, the key to its survival was not the lone-wolf approach but rather the community or tribal arrangement. In a tribe, members watch out for one another and protect the interests of the tribe and its members. In essence, it functions as a single entity. Nowadays, we have separated ourselves from this concept with have a society that seems to focus more on selfish gains and personal achievements than it does collective ones. Nowhere is this more apparent than the workplace. How many times in workplaces do we hear things like “you’re wasting company time” or “if you don’t like it, leave”? How many times does a company have a zero-tolerance policy for errors in conduct because it “lost the company money”? We of course need rules and policies when it comes to public safety or ethics, but somewhere down the line we merged this mentality with company profit margins. We have a society built on the profits equals reputation ideal instead of reputation being built from community collaboration and support within its ranks.
Besides the chemical release from helping others, what helping others does is instill trust between people. But the key is that helping others can never be for some underlying motive. Take for example a friend of yours is struggling financially and cannot pay their phone bill that month. The selfless approach is to pay it for them without expecting anything in return, ever. Really think about that. That means that you cannot expect them to help you out in the same way, or that they will buy you a drink as thanks once they’re able to, or even that they will ever pay you back. Now, if this makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s okay. Like I said, our society has been warped into thinking that nothing is for free; that there is always a payback, or a deal has been made, an expectation. Any payback or deal is at their discretion and is not obligated. Of course, most people will pay you back somehow, but it should be because we want to, not that we need to. When you hold the door for someone, you’re saying “I care about making something easier for you”. The same is true with helping a friend financially. The goal is trust, not reward.
So, how do we now use this in the workplace? A company’s reputation is everything these days, but what we need to do is separate financial profit from that reputation. Money is simply a holding deal in numerical format. The old barter system would have you trade tomatoes you grew for some cow milk from a neighbour. No money was exchanged, and everyone was just helping each other with what they needed right then. Today’s society is obviously more complicated, so money was necessary to hold that favour temporarily (i.e., cash). However, we idolize money as the top resource in a capitalistic world instead of what it represents, good will. Sure, money makes it easier to live a comfortable life, but you know what else helps people live comfortably? People helping people, selflessly, by doing deeds. What stands out more: a person giving $100 to a charity or that person volunteering at that charity for eight hours?
Companies need to focus more on supporting the workers in their needs and putting workers above profits. If a worker is ill, don’t just allow them to stay home, tell them to take a break and focus on anything but work while not sacrificing their pay that day. If a coworker is noticeably frustrated, take them aside and ask them what is wrong, then offer your help outright. Managers can give someone an advance on their salary that month or even sprinkle a little bonus as they see fit based on a person’s needs at that moment. Why? Because you’d be surprised the effect it will have. Workers will trust their worth and value in their role, and they will then feel like they can help others. Before you know it, you have built that positive reinforcement tribe mentality just by changing the perspective of why you’re helping others. Money becomes less worrisome when your wallet is filled with love and support.