Have you ever tried to get your employees to join a Habitat for Humanity project, or go down to the local homeless shelter to volunteer? It seems like an easy endeavor, I which of your employees don’t want to help out the less fortunate? Apparently, most of them! From Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact:
“…the study underscored this new dynamic: You are twice as likely to see a message from one of your social network contacts promoting an animal charity as you are a human rights campaign. And causes dedicated to the disabled or homeless are even less popular, the study found.”
It sounds unbelievable right? I mean, we all hire great, caring people – we are great, caring people, so why is it we would rather support a charity to help animals, than our own brothers and sisters who are living on the street? I call it the face test. It’s easier for us to look into the eyes of a dog and cat and feel empathy. It’s difficult to look into the eyes of a homeless man or woman – it makes us uncomfortable. It’s similar to when people have a hard time talking about death – it becomes a little to real for them. You having to engage a homeless person puts into real terms what life potentially has to offer – to you. It makes you very uncomfortable. So we combat that by making ourselves feel good – by donating money to animals. We can rationalize that to ourselves – these beings can’t take care of themselves – so I will help them.
How does this help your Employee Engagement?
Pretty simple – don’t fight psychology – you’ll lose. I’m not saying don’t support homeless charities – please do! What I am saying is that your employees will rally around and be more engaged to help homeless pigmy goats, or barn cats in need of food. It’s sad, but true. People like to feel like they are making a difference, but most don’t want to get their hands dirty. Local animal shelters needs funds. Great! Our employees are the best, they’ll help! And, they will. That’s a good thing for your engagement. Don’t focus on the negative, focus on what you can control in your world. If you truly feel that bad about the concept, go out on your own and donate your time and resources to take care of actual humans.
Believe me, I’m guilty of this as well. I support the crap of finding a cure for Leukemia. Truth be told, I’ve never met or known anyone with Leukemia – yet each year we do specific fundraising things just to help this cause. I drive by a homeless guy almost every day on way to and from work – and I’ve never once offered to help him – not thrown him a couple bucks, dropped off food, nothing. Psychology is a monster. I vow to stop and offer some assistance the next time I see a homeless person. I also vow to start an office program to help disabled kittens – it’s sure to get high participation!
I just adopted two cats from a rescue shelter, so I know of what you speak. Emotionally we tend to think of animals as helpless victims who need us, while somehow the less fortunate people around us are viewed as somehow at least partially to blame for their own difficulties.
That’s not fair, and an over-generalization, I know – but it does seem to explain why my wife and I were fairly tripping over the number of volunteers at the animal shelter.
What an amazing/scary truth. Solid post Tim!