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The downturn is affecting our behaviour. Businesses and people are becoming more frugal, but when does frugal turn in to downright stingy and what does it cost?

Our second value at RedBalloon is generosity, and that means being generous with our time by listening and providing information, not just with customers and suppliers but also with each other.

During my corporate life, I remember asking many bosses to support me or assist with a particular project, only to find myself in a waiting game, wondering if and when they were going to do what they had promised. I thought about the level of trust I could create as a leader if everyone knew that if they made a request of me, they could count on me to deliver (or at least keep them informed if things don’t go according to plan). What level of trust would there be in an organisation where you know that you could count on?

You can never take values for granted, I thought it would be difficult for me to write about stinginess until I opened my eyes and ears and absorbed a few instances around me and the damage that it’s doing.

Monday morning, ordering my smoothie from the café across the road and two people were catching up on the weekend. One was complaining to the other about a friend that had turned up empty handed to a dinner party on a Saturday night. “I know she’s not working at the moment, but she could have brought something or at least helped to clear up,” said the first girl. “No way, it’s not that hard you don’t have to spend a lot,” said the other. My guess is that the dinner guest will have done herself out of an invitation in the future from at least one person.

At dinner, last night I listened to my fellow guests talk about their businesses, two big banks, an airline and a consultancy, about how appalling they are at acknowledging each other, helping each other out and generally just giving a little. Our party had been talking about how tough corporate life is at the moment. There was a general consensus that the downturn had produced a head down mentally with people being increasingly unwilling to help each other out, simply and looking after themselves. I guess it comes from some fallacy that just focusing on yourself will see you through, coupled with the fear of redundancy. Theirs sounded like awful places to work, and I realised how lucky I am to work in an environment where giving is part of what we do, every day and the part of the reason for our on-going success. On my way home I made a point of texting my host a special thank you for their efforts.

Being stingy is being mean or miserly. There is no excuse for it and as we know it certainly does not pay as a strategy long term. Stingy people and organisations don’t say thanks, they are pretty self-centered and incredibly tight-fisted. Stinginess is not a success strategy.

Being stingy is not always the plan, we are all so focused on our own roles and KPIs, in our own lives, that it’s easy to forget that we prosper more when we include and involve others when we thank them for their input and share in each other’s success.

A simple thank you goes a long way to foster respect and discretionary effort being applied in the future. A simple thank you with friends and loved ones remind them they are appreciated. When was the last time that you said thanks to the boyfriend for do the washing or bought your wife some flowers for cooking dinner?

Reader Interactions


  1. Naomi the issues in your blog is top of mind for me right now. Just yesterday I was commenting how the members of my team and our broader team are uncommonly generous with their time. I have never worked in an environment where everyone actually wants to help out with thoughts, suggestions and advice. It also prompted me to do some overdue thanking myself. My thanks were so warmly received and I made a mental note to ensure I do it more regularly especially in these times when most of us are taking on extra and are under more pressure. Human nature is such that we all feel, dare I say it "validated" when someone notices our efforts. Thanks for your blog, it is so easy to get caught up in our own kpi’s yet it feels so good when we digress ever so briefly to say a few kind words.

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