Giving & Burnout – Do You Know The Difference You’re Making?

One of the most rewarding elements of my job is when a guest or new member shares an observation that goes something like, “I can’t put my finger on it yet, but I sense there is something special going on here at Roam.” That phrase, something special, means everything to the Roam team. To us, that something special represents our why as an organization and our motivation for getting better at serving our members every day – it’s our invested community, a community of leaders living and working on purpose and a community of givers enriching the lives of others through authentic relationships. This is the culture we are working tirelessly to encourage and it’s so enlivening when others recognize it.

Given the generous nature and remarkable achievements of Roam members, it comes with no surprise that new research from Wharton professor, Adam Grant, shows that Givers, people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return, represent an overwhelming majority of the top of the success ladder. Interestingly, the same research shows that givers also make up a majority of the very bottom of the success ladder, due to a greater tendency to burn out and be exploited by others. The consequence of being selfless all the time is that givers place themselves at risk for what’s known as compassion fatigue. When givers reach this state, their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health suffers, causing poor performance.

If as a community we are more wired to give, and if our goal is to create a culture of giving, then how do we maintain consistent effectiveness, achieve our goals, and avoid burnout?

Adam Grant helps us answer these questions in his bestselling book, Give and Take. Check this out: at a university call center, students were charged with raising money from alumni to support scholarships. In a very cool research study, the researcher’s found that the callers who were identified as givers were surprisingly the least productive. The callers who wanted to make a difference we’re actually making the smallest difference. The research team found that the student callers were completely in the dark on how their fundraising efforts were helping others. So, the researchers tried an experiment. They had the callers meet the scholarship recipients in person – the people whose lives were positively changed due to their efforts. In a nutshell, after this happened, the givers reached more alumni, resulting in a 144% increase in donations/week. Revenue quintupled! And, all it took was five minutes of interacting with one scholarship recipient.

So What?

The study highlights a principle of giver burnout: it has less to do with the amount of giving and more with the amount of feedback about the impact of giving. At Roam, we give and give and give every day. It’s who we are. But in an intense customer-facing environment, it can come at a cost if a team member begins to burnout. One loss of self-control could make or break a member’s experience, and Roam’s reputation.

Now What?

Substitute the student callers from the research study with you or your employees and the alumni with your end users and you can see the potential significance. When we know how our work makes a difference, we feel energized to contribute more, our performance improves, we are protected against stress, and we prevent burn out. More powerfully, when we learn directly from our customers on how we make a difference in their lives, the research suggests it causes our performance to skyrocket even more.

At Roam, we make an extra effort amongst our team to celebrate positive feedback from members and guests. We seek out success stories from our members and share them as much as we can. Every relationship that is formed, connection made, goal attained, and dream achieved by our members is a sustaining source of inspiration for us.

To sustain our teams, our organizations, our cultures, and ourselves we must be intentional about telling stories of difference making! We must be intentional about inviting our customers to share the impact we have made on them! Collectively, if we do this, we’ll ensure that the Roam community stays on top.

So ask yourself the question: Do you know the difference you are making?