'Prosocial' bonuses at work boost mood

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Giving employees money to spend on charities or their coworkers is a way to increase job satisfaction and performance, according to Duke University research.

In one experiment, employees at a bank were given a $25 or $50 voucher to donate to a charity of their choice on behalf of the company. 

Those who donated the $50 reported enhanced happiness and job satisfaction compared to those who did not give to charity or donated the smaller amount.

In additional experiments, researchers led by Lalin Anik of the Fuqua School of Business measured 11 sports teams in Canada and 14 pharmaceutical sales teams in Belgium. In both cases, those that received “prosocial” bonuses outperformed teams that were given personal bonuses.

The researchers noted that individual bonuses are not as effective in boosting employee morale. 

“Prosocial bonuses offer an alternative approach that has the potential to provide some of the same benefits as team-based compensation — increased social support, cohesion and performance — while carrying fewer drawbacks,” the authors wrote. Findings were in PLOS ONE.