Emotional Salary is the non-financial or emotional gains we obtain from working that motivate us, change our perception of work and lead to personal and professional development.

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Generosity, Emotional Salary and Employee Engagement

Many will recall Gordon Gekko and the movie “Wall Street”. For those who have not seen it, I do recommend you to do so. Here is one of his most famous speeches where he talks about greed:

“The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind …”


Greed used to be a shameful behaviour, at least for those educated in a Christian environment and as opposite to greed, generosity emerges as a conduct of moral excellence.

But I am not here to recommend you to choose generosity against greed because you will be a better human being. What I am here for is to persuade you that being generous will make you happier and healthier than being greedy. And, for those wondering why am I using this blog as a sort of admonishing pulpit? Well, here is the reason why: Generosity will ultimately lead to higher productivity in organizations and ultimately in society.

So being happier, healthier and richer? Is there any better offer?


Now this is my story in a nutshell. I’m a born giver. Being a giver (with my family –including my cat, my friends and at work) provides me with great happiness. Greed is so away from my nature that I many times felt a weirdo asking myself whether there was something wrong with my DNA.

So I decided to look into some of the studies on this and, you know what?  I discovered that science backs me up! Science has proved me that I am not an alien, I am simply a happier and healthier person.

These are my findings:

Did you know that when you make a donation to charity, your brain reacts in a similar way to when you are having sex or eating chocolate? The brain scans used in the study revealed that when people made the decision to donate, parts of the midbrain lit up—the same region that controls cravings for food and sex.

Another extensive piece of research (which included nearly 5,000 persons) made at Notre Dame University also found that those being generous whether financial or in any other way are happier and healthier.[1]. But this research also explains that like yoga, meditation or mindfulness, getting the benefit of greater happiness and better health requires a consistent practice of generosity.

Happier and healthier… Some of you are surely getting nervous: What about higher productivity in organizations? Hold on with me for a second.

How Generosity Works Within an Organization


We already know through a growing body of research on organizational psychology that a positive environment will lead to dramatic benefits for employers, employees and all persons working for an organization, which is fine. But all organizations need to earn money, grow and become more productive, right? Here comes the good news: Wharton School Professor Adam Grant has researched generosity in the corporate arena and found that generosity within a company actually leads to higher productivity, creativity and innovation![2]

In his book, “Give and Take”, he identifies three categories of individuals: Givers (individuals who contribute to others without seeking anything in return; they offer assistance, share knowledge and make valuable introductions), takers (those that guard their own expertise and time, claim credit for other´s work, believe the world is a competitive, dog-eat-dog place), and “matchers” (those who maintain a balance of give and take).   Gordon Gecko was obviously a taker.

Adam Grant concludes that success nowadays is increasingly dependent on how we interact, how we collaborate with others (in most businesses knowledge and creativity is key. In order to get ready to face an uncertain future where there will be lots of challenges this is particularly important as knowledge, innovation and creativity will be key to survive and stay relevant in the long term). The only way to ensure interaction is to support generosity behaviours (givers) at all levels and in all ways. And also is important not to support greedy takers. Let’s give it a second thought.

Some Questions That We Could Start Giving Them Some Thought


  • What about you and me? What about us? Do you practice generosity internally? With your team and colleagues?
  • Do you introduce clients to your colleagues?
  • Do you promote your junior member’s ideas?
  • Do you mentor junior members of your organization? (Although I know, you will say “But no one mentored me!)
  • Do you share knowledge and best practices with others?
  • Do we show gratitude to other’s generosity?
  • Do you devote part of your precious time to your colleagues?


So what does Generosity has to do with Emotional Salary?


Well, practicing generosity is key to increasing your own Emotional Salary and that of others. The question is How? What actions can any leader can take to practice generosity in a way that it also has the effect of increasing the Emotional Salary of your team.

This is a list of 10 actions you can start doing now or at least start considering.

Ten actions to support Emotional Salary

  • Autonomy: Trusting employees and giving them freedom to manage their projects and time.
  • Belonging: Taking the time to show employees that they are appreciated and valued on a regular basis.
  • Creativity Giving employees the opportunity to express and develop their own original ideas.
  • Direction: Providing a wide range of career development opportunities for ALL employees, not only a selected few or the group of favourite team members.
  • Enjoyment: Encouraging time and space for connecting with others and social interactions.
  • Inspiration: Enabling employees to work in line with their values.
  • Mastery: Ensuring employees have adequate time and resources to do their best work and gain greater expertise.
  • Personal Growth: Allowing employees to develop self-awareness learn from their mistakes without fear.
  • Professional Growth: Providing employees with ongoing training and support to develop their skills and abilities.
  • Purpose: Providing meaningful work that has value for employees and the organization.

Remember that one of the most important aspects you can give to your team is the best version of yourself. The true essence of a servant leader is based on generosity. In knowing and being aware that the reason for their role is to put all their knowledge, wisdom and perspective at the service of the team and leading it with the purpose of putting the team and their personal and professional growth as a top priority.

A Final Note


Whichever way you choose, never forget to do it every day. You’ll enjoy better health and it could be the catalyst for a happier life. How about putting everything to practice today in your organization? Make it a brand value. Many of your organizations may today already have a citizenship statement in your websites: Charities your company donates, alliances with other charity organizations, you name it! Which gives us the hint that outbound generosity is working! And it is good so. Now it is time to make it integral in your leadership as well.

Generosity is certainly among us and you can find lots of examples. Look around you. I am sure that one of the most successful persons in your life are also the ones who practice inbound generosity and have made generosity part of their lives. Maybe even part of their personal brand.

Generosity has been indeed part of my life and also part of my success personally and professionally, and it also appears to be a strategic priority for any organization to be more engaged, successful and happier.

Therefore, we have to consider seriously to reward those forms of generosity.

And here comes my proposal:  Set yourself a minimum hours per year to for practicing the kind of generosity that will help you be more successful, happier and healthier. Remember the “paradox of generosity”: Giving we receive, grasping we lose.

[1] [The paradox of generosity: giving we receive, grasping we lose. Professor. Christian Smith and Hillary David. Written while at Notre Dame University. Oxford Press 2014. Reflects 5 years research, more than 2,000 Americans].

[2] [“Give and Take”, his best selling book (Viking 2013)


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