Much has been written over the ages about
the self-interestedness of altruism and treating others well. From religious texts to the
moral branch of philosophy to pop psychology
self-help books and over millennia, the subject
persists. There are various strands to the
argument but the most popular (and particularly applicable to everyday professional life) is
doing good by others increases the likelihood
that others will do good by you.
While see this play out every day it is not a
mechanistic, cause-effect phenomena so much
as a statistical correlation type of thing. Clearly,
some people are selfish, unhelpful jerks whether you are nice to them or not, but generally
speaking, if you treat professional acquaintances well they will reciprocate, and often with
greater effect than your original act.
Also, there is a whole class of altruistic
behavior that, in the workplace, is little more
than being a good (qualitatively, not morally)
professional—keeping people informed, recognizing effort,
saying thank you, encouraging performance—which are now
written into, or at least strongly implied in many corporate
statements and goals.
While I am certain most of you that work in insurance carriers are familiar with these institutionalized sentiments, I wonder how many of you are encouraged to extend these principles
beyond the boundaries of your employer and into the network
of “partners” that help facilitate your business.
Bluntly put, are you nice to vendors? Please note, I didn’t
ask are you nice to “your” vendors, as in those you do business
with and rely upon and know, but any vendors. Having broadened the question, let me immediately narrow it considerably.
I am not asking if you respond to every unknown person that
calls you out of the blue, has no idea who you are or what (if
anything) you need and proceeds to either fill your voicemail or
waste your time.
You owe these people nothing, except possibly a polite
thanks but no thanks. But what about vendors that you asked
to respond to an RFP or size a project or bring a team and visit
you at their own time and expense, or set up reference calls?
I live a somewhat schizophrenic professional life. I am a
vendor and spend a significant amount of time involved in
the sales and marketing activities mentioned above on behalf
of the CastleBay
Companies. I also
spend a fair amount
of time representing
and services vendor
searches. What I have
learned from both of
these experiences is
exactly the principle
we started out with
in this article: A little
altruism goes a long
way when dealing
Let me share a
A carrier representative emails out of the blue asking for
help with a possible hosted-solution search. The email requests
various specifics about time and cost.
I email back with a set of questions on the basis of which I
might have some shot at answering the questions.
The carrier representative calls me and we have a useful and
Altruism and Self-Interest
Sometimes it pays to be nice to others—even software vendors.
By George Grieve
There is a whole
class of altruistic
behavior that is
little more than
being a good
which is now
written into many