Grounds for Thought: Keeping Track of ‘Chits’ Wastes an Opportunity

May 29, 2024
Who is the giver? by Kelly Sikkema from Unsplash

I grew up being told to bring a gift when visiting someone’s home for dinner or an overnight stay, to remember to gift someone who has gifted me, and to gauge the value of the gift appropriately — never too big, never too small given the situation.

In business, when we exchange things of equal value, it’s called a transaction. There is no remaining obligation. The participants are ‘freed’ from each other. 

Life was a set of transactions. 

Then I read The Gift by Lewis Hyde. 

He begins by telling you about other cultures where a gift was not an individual transaction. In fact, it was not a transaction at all. It was rather an expression of appreciation of the community’s support of you perhaps through this individual. It was meant to build the relationship and the community. So the social fabric was not rent but reinforced. 

So, if I did something for you in a business situation, instead of it being done to stack up chits, it could be done so that the social fabric of the business was strengthened along with increased productivity or revenue and it came out of the intention of giving to the whole instead of for the self. Keep in mind, the social fabric of the organization supports everyone, not just you.

Think about that. The social fabric of the business is about teamwork, trust, commitment, clarity, curiosity, creativity – all the things we hope to create in an organization that leads to increased productivity, more innovation, and enhanced resilience— all as a natural outcome. In other words,  as a leader, you don’t have to constantly invest in motivating staff. They motivate themselves and each other. 

As a result of reading Hyde’s book, The Gift, my work within organizations changed entirely AND my understanding of how to gift others was freed as well. I no longer worried that my gift was not big enough or too generous. It was what I thought would be best for the other person as they lived life in their community.  

I think of the establishments that I return to again and again. It’s that store where they remember who you are and know what you need even before you say it. I hope you know what I’m talking about. 

My bank had a branch bank in my local town but in a move to improve efficiency and revenue, they closed that branch and told me there were three others I could use. When I went to one of them, the only thing that made me feel I was working with the same bank was recognizing one of the tellers from the closed branch who had transferred to this one. We greeted each other as if we were old friends. Like a gift, it made my transition to the new branch much easier. 

The next time you do something for a colleague, examine your own reasons for doing so. Was it a transaction or a gift?

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