How Your Boss Could Be Using Charity Bonuses To Make You Work Harder

In a new business study, Australian bank employees were given money vouchers to donate to a charity of their choice. The survey found that the relatively small bonuses lead to enhanced happiness and job satisfaction, which could translate to "increased productivity, effort and performance".

Smug boss picture from Shutterstock

As part of an international study organised by Harvard Business School, employees at an Australian bank were randomly given a 25-dollar or 50-dollar charity voucher on behalf of the company.

Employees who donated the larger amount to charity reported enhanced happiness and job satisfaction, compared to those who did not donate to charity or donated the smaller amount.

The report argues that a charity or ‘prosocial’ bonus can be more effective at driving employee job satisfaction than a personal bonus of the same denomination. (i.e. — a $50 bonus for oneself may be viewed as a trifling or insufficient reward, whereas a $50 charity voucher is acceptable.)

Somewhat sinisterly, the report goes on to explain how a small charity-based bonus can be used to improve job satisfaction and productivity levels without forking out large sums of money in the process:

Our studies show that when organizations give employees the opportunity to spend money on others both the employees and the company can benefit, with increased happiness and job satisfaction and even improved team performance.


These results suggest that a minor adjustment to employee bonuses – shifting the focus from the self to others – can produce measurable benefits for employees and organizations.

The study concludes that the introduction of prosocial bonuses could be an effective method for incentivising employees and improving job performance.

We find this to be a bit too underhanded for our liking -- it's essentially using charity to push through a hidden, ulterior motive. That said, while your boss' intentions may be less than pure, at least you'll be assisting someone in need, which is surely better than spending the $25 bonus on lunch or a few coffees.

Prosocial Bonuses Increase Employee Satisfaction and Team Performance [PLOS ONE]


    I actually think that's a really good idea.

      so do i. dont even think its all that sinster as the whole idea of managers is to boost productivity.

      they have essentially found a more ethical way to do something that they had to do anyway.

      Me too! I'm always trying to think of ways to make staff happier and more productive. I think I might suggest this :)

    Hmm, I wonder what charities managers could give to incentivise (horrible word) employees?

    $25 to $50 isnt worth it as a bonus but $25 worth of beer would make me happy.

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