When you hear the word “give” at work, people instinctively reach for their wallets or purses, either to open or hide them.

Too often giving connotes making a financial donation. Many organizations, however, are working to encourage people to donate not just dollars but their time. “CECP, a nonprofit formerly known as Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, reports that 61% of companies provided paid time off volunteer programs in 2016—up from 59% three years prior,” according to an article in Monster.com.

Giving is something inherent in the human psyche. It may be that within each of us is endowed with an “altruism gene” that predisposes us to care for someone else. Certainly, this genetic inclination is prevalent among families. We take care of our own is not just a slogan; it's a commitment to doing right by your family.

But what about your work family?

One man who knows a lot about this topic is Wayne Baker, who is a professor of sociology at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Assisting Wayne in this effort his social scientist partner and wife, Cheryl Baker.

Nearly twenty years ago, Baker was looking for a way to tap into social capital as a network and creating a form of reciprocity. As Baker told me in an email interview, a discussion with his wife sparked an idea. “Cheryl asked me to describe generalized reciprocity and I told her about the Kula Ring… and how it works.  From this exotic example, she created the Reciprocity Ring!” (The Kula Ring, popularized by anthropologist Branislaw Malinoski, is form of ritualized gift exchange used by New Guinea’s Tobriand Islanders.)


Click here to read the full article.