The Law of Reciprocity (Part 2): a Leader’s Best Kept Secret!

My previous blog on the Law of Reciprocity provided an explanation of this social law and how it applies to work and life.  As promised, I am following up on that blog with how the Law of Reciprocity applies to, and benefits, managers in organizations.

Giving to others not only enriches the lives of those around us, but the altruism rewards us personally as well.  We feel good about ourselves when we give, achieving a sense of fulfillment and happiness.  This positive energy spreads to others through the Law of Reciprocity and it’s a secret power many leaders use to obtain staff engagement and productivity.

When working with a charity or non-profit, I often hear many leaders tell me “We just don’t have the budget other organizations do to purchase gifts for our staff.”  Many think that giving to their staff means rewarding them with monetary and tangible gifts, however this is not the only method of giving.  A leader doesn’t need to have a large budget to give to his/her team.

These are four ways a Leader can give to his/her staff:

  1. Provide focused time
    • Meet with your staff individually and regularly to check-in on how things are going.
    • Meet with your staff to learn about them and their professional career goals. What can you do to support their career development?  Link their personal goals with your organization’s goals.
    • Be available and present to answer questions and remove obstacles.
    • Determine ways to provide support to the individual.
  1. Pitch in when necessary
    • Show commitment by helping your staff complete a project. Are they staying late or working overtime to complete it on time?  Offer your support, time, expertise – to show them that you are in it together as a TEAM.
    • Remove role boundaries such as “I’m the Manager therefore I don’t…”
  1. Provide autonomy / Assign a stretch assignment
    • Show your staff that you appreciate them and trust their capabilities by empowering them to make decisions independently, plan a project, etc. They will rise to the occasion!
    • Let them know that it’s okay to make mistakes and take risks and be there to help them learn from those.
  1. Provide gifts of appreciation
    • Provide gifts that are meaningful to the staff. A Leader needs to know his/her staff to understand what would be valuable and appreciated by each individual.
    • Have a small budget? Get creative!  Meaningful gifts don’t need to cost a lot.  A thoughtful note or card also goes a long way.
    • Create your own employee awards for your team!
    • Provide recognition and/or gifts that are timely.

When employees receive these gifts from their leader, it results in them feeling appreciated and valued, thereby leading to higher engagement and productivity.  Your staff will remember that you spent time with them, helped them, pitched in… and will want to return the favour.  Next time you need the team to come together to complete an assignment with little notice, they will do whatever they can to get the job done well, and on time.  They will want to return the favour.

Of course, giving too much can have negative effects.  Be mindful of the time and energy you spend so you don’t become drained and/or don’t have time to complete your own work.

Next Steps

LINK HR Consultants work with leaders on employee engagement – consulting, coaching, and training on how to get the best out of their team.

About us

The Human Resources Consultants of LINK HR assist organizations attain their goals by implementing people solutions that link to business strategy.  Contact us by phone at (416) 565-9876 or by email at for more information about our services and solutions.


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