Can “something for nothing” be part of every workplace?

By 3rd August 2017Leadership

something for nothing – phrase [PHRASE after verb]: If you say that someone is getting something for nothing, you disapprove of the fact that they are getting what they want without doing or giving anything in return.

My ideas for my blogs usually start with an experience or a memory and then I look around various social media sites to make sure no one else has written about the topic the same way I am thinking – from there I just let my thoughts flow.  This blog was inspired by a comment someone said to me last week “what do you get out of this”?

I am at the phase of my career where I spilt my time between working for clients and then volunteering my time to companies or individuals that I feel need a helping hand and may not have access to resources.  This month I launched anything is possible ltd 2017 social responsibility projects because I wanted to also bring it more formally into my business.  Don’t get me wrong – I need to work and so does my partner but we choose to work differently for this part of our careers after having been in a very busy, corporate job for decades and experiencing personal events that gave us great perspective and clarity on what is important to us.

I am driven by the fact that “something for nothing” isn’t about big gestures or financial investments but mostly about the most precious commodity of all – your time.

Research

During my research, I found many examples of how “something for nothing” is indeed part of the workplace – here are just 3:

Josh Coombes is a hairdresser who started to reach out to the homeless in his city and offer them free haircuts, he started the hashtag #dosomethingfornothing – a movement born from the idea that we are all able to do something for someone; for nothing.   You can follow Josh and the movement on Twitter @joshuacoombes or via Instagram at @dosomethingfornothing.

My friend Sandra Mitchell owns a pet shop called Purrfect Pets in the UK and around Christmas time she makes up Christmas stockings with dog treats and accompanying stockings with hats, gloves, chocolates and other goodies for men and women and then goes around the homeless in London who have dogs with them and hands out the gifts – for nothing.

There is a TV series in the UK called DIY SOS where a team issue a call to arms and recruit friends, family and local trades to help transform the homes of families in need across the UK – hundreds of trades and experts donate goods, services and their time for nothing.  I know you probably have other stories or examples that demonstrate the kindness and generosity of people in your lives.

Proactive vs Reactive

So clearly it is possible to make “something for nothing” happen so why bother with a blog? I guess because I wanted to focus on where I have spent the vast majority of my working life – in a corporate environment.  I don’t mean asking organisations to donate to charities or raise money for good causes by sponsoring staff to run marathon etc. Instead I mean looking around your colleagues and sensing they may not be in the best place and doing something for them.  Knowing that sometimes after making the gesture or giving your time, you may never know if it made a difference – there is no expectation of anything in return.  Be proactive in making a cup of tea, buying chocolate, asking them if they need to go home early or just stopping to say hello.

Sometimes it’s not about being proactive but reacting in the right way.  If someone says “have you got 5 minutes” – you look up, pause, and consider the question carefully before responding with “not right now”, “sorry I’m swamped”, “can it wait”, “I’ve got this deadline”, “can I just finish this”?    You see if you instead say “yes” and give them 5 minutes – which I acknowledge may well be 30 minutes, you will have not given something for nothing but your time for someone and that’s what I am talking about.

Whilst I recognize that statistically there could be more unnecessary interruptions and dramas than cases with a real need you still are making a difference.  Your judgement on what is important to someone may not be the same as theirs.  One small question or event that has created angst with them could have followed a succession of other things you know nothing about and you giving them time may just give them the support, breathing space or hope that people do care and things will be OK.

I know that when I gave my time in work it may well have on occasions resulted in me having to put myself out – by working later or missing out on doing something I had planned.  But the vast majority of times it didn’t – those few minutes that made such a difference to someone else had little or no impact on the time in my day.  My time restrictions where on many occasions my own dramas – created not by others but my own planning, schedule or deadlines and I’d somehow convinced myself I was way too busy to talk to anyone – perhaps even on occasions that I succumbed to being busy meaning being important.  Nonsense.  Twaddle.   Everyone has 1,440 minutes per day – no one gets more or less because of seniority, job importance, tasks etc but how you choose to spend those minutes makes you the better manager, better leader, better colleague.  5 minutes from 1440 – you do the math’s.

Where can you give something for nothing? Who can you give your time to today?

 

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