The last few years has seen a marked increase in attempts by companies to be decent members of their local communities. This desire to be good corporate citizens obviously manifests itself in the individual behavior of employees.
A recent study should be of interest, as it explores the conditions under which we tend to behave in a socially responsible way. It revealed that a key factor for behind our behavior was whether we felt it would make a difference, and the key factor behind this was how socially connected we were.
“Our paper offers new insight into how feeling connected to others affects behavior. We find that identification with a social group has an empowering effect on individuals. People who are highly socially motivated may surrender some aspects of their individuality, but receive in return a sense of strength in numbers that gets absorbed into their own self-image. Consequently, they have a greater belief in the effectiveness of their individual actions and a clearer conception of how their own choices directly impact the collective,” the authors say.
The Power of Connectivity
The researchers analyzed the habits of some 600 adults to determine their social values, their level of connectedness, and their perceptions regarding the effectiveness of any actions they may undertake.
The analysis revealed that we tend to feel our actions are much more effective when we have higher degrees of social connectedness. This manifested itself in things such as higher recycling rates or other socially valuable behaviors. Interestingly, connectivity seemed to play a larger role in our subsequent behaviors, and our belief in their effectiveness, than our moral compass.
Of course, our peers are well known to influence our behaviors, so the authors then set out to examine whether this connectivity influenced our behavior. As expected, the higher our social connectivity, the more likely we were to believe that our actions would be effective.
“Overall, this suggests that we’re at our ethical best when we feel part of a human community that transcends our immediate surroundings,” said the authors say.
So, if we’re hoping to improve our corporate social responsibility, it may help if managers work hard to build a sense of communal awareness within the organization, both in terms of individual employees but also the context of the organization as part of the wider community.