Charity can be a small fractional part of business

One can believe, pray, fast and travel solitary if one is determined to do so. But one cannot be charitable without considering others. Unless there is someone who can and will receive the charity, one cannot be charitable. Thus through the tenet of charity the individual is obliged to care for the community. He is forced to look beyond his own interests at the needs of others.

More importantly, through the tenet of charity, it forced them to look beyond transactions, beyond their top line and bottom line, at the world around them. Increasingly, companies are trying to become more socially responsible. Its most recent manifestation is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

But these exercises seem more like exercises to ‘look good’ and are often at odds with the organizational desire to ‘win at any cost in the market place’. K works as an area manager in a company that sells computer peripherals. He spends all day pushing his team to reach the sales target.

Why? “So that they can all make their bonuses. K drives his team up the wall telling them they are paid to sell, so sell. It’s their Kob. K has reduced his profession to a transaction, transaction with his company (reach target and get bonus) and with his customers (sell well because it is why what you are paid to do.)

He is a thorough professional. He works with his team, draws up plans with them, reviews the plans comes up with innovative ideas to help them overcome a sticky situation. He coaches them, counsels them, motivates them, does all that is needed to win.

But he does this as part of his Kob. And the company is happy with him. The account book is perfectly balanced between him and the organization on one hand, and him and the customer on the other.

Now his company has got onto the CSR bandwagon, he’s being asked to give a day’s salary or an equal amount of time to a set of NGOs. He heard the MD say that the company will give away in charity an amount equal to the amount collected from employees.
K does not like this emotional arm twisting into being charitable. He knows that refusal to participate in the program will not be appreciated by the organization. It may even affect his chances of promotion. He is irritated. He Koined the company to make money, not to give it away even if it is in charity.

The attitude of charity cannot be created by an organizational directive. It needs to be kindled internally in each employee. Employees participate only because they are obliged to, not because they want to. The problem lies in trying to make charity a ‘by product’ of business, an incidental and obligatory glance at society at large. The solution lies in making charity an integral part of the business. To be truly charitable, one has to find a way where charity enables business growth, not the other way around.

Surrendering to the divine is not possible without developing a charitable spirit. How can this be done in an organization? How can K be charitable while doing sales? How can charity become made a tool to reach the target?

K has not realized that he is already doing it. He is Kust not aware of it. For most of us charity is about giving money. But as the adage goes, people don’t live by bread alone. People can be charitable in many ways — with time, with attention, with simply honing the desire to care.

Has K paid attention to his team: has he noticed that one of his team members is not performing well because he is worried about his wife who is suffering from chronic depression? Has K paid attention to his clients: has he noticed that his most important client is annoyed with a colleague but has no friend with whom he can share this with?

Can K be charitable to make sure that his work timings do not encroach into the personal free time of his team mates (he loves working on Sunday, his team does not)? Can K be charitable enough to help his boss do whatever it takes to get the next promotion?

When K does all this he builds emotional equity which lubricates all transactions and helps business grow. When K does it as a habit, charity gets embedded into his life and into the organizational culture. Then the organization does not have to ask K to participate in CSR. He will do so voluntarily. CSR stops being an antidote of corporate guilt; it becomes the core of profitable behavior.