A study led by Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Jeffrey Pfeffer revealed that companies are no longer favoring their loyal, hardworking employees like they used to.
Although reciprocity — paying back a courtesy — is still an established norm in private lives, its importance at work has significantly diminished. This lack of reciprocity is not only observed between employers and the employees, but also among employees themselves.
According to the study, reciprocity in private life, or life outside of work, is viewed as an essential kindness. On the other hand, reciprocity at work is a calculated and benefit-seeking task. Employees and employers tend to pay back favors only if they can benefit from that individual in the near future.
“If you do a favor for me, as one human being to another, I feel a normative obligation to repay the favor, even if you aren’t going to be very useful to me in the future,” Pfeffer said, as reported by Insights by Stanford Business. “But we found almost the exact opposite in an organizational context. There, it’s all about calculations. If we don’t feel repaying the favor will benefit us much in the future, we won’t do it.”
Consequently, this mindset reduces the many advantages workers used to gain from being loyal to their company.
Pfeffer mentions that the lack of reciprocity in the workplace may have negative consequences. He believes that reciprocity is significant in supporting two key elements of a successful organization — creating positive relationships and a well-structured atmosphere within the office.
For this reason, Pfeffer advises companies to emphasize morality and ethics rather than calculative mentality.
Contact Batuhan Berk Balci at bbalci ‘at’ stanford.edu.