Prosocial behavior or “voluntary behavior intended to benefit another” is strongly motivated by empathy. And, next to growing empathy, increased prosocial behavior is arguably one of the most important shifts that can occur in an individual as a result of employee volunteering.

By Kelly Lynch

Realized Worth works in two domains: the “work” domain and the “volunteer” domain. One of the ongoing opportunities we encounter is demonstrating the value of skills and behaviors developed in the volunteer domain and how that value is brought back to the work domain.

In simpler terms: How does the transformation employees experience through volunteering show itself at work?

For RW, the net positive for the individual, for society, and for the company is an employee’s broadened capacity to humanize and empathize with what was originally perceived as an “out group.” This shift or “transformation” extends a more compassionate hand to all aspects of a person’s life, including work, and contributes to overall social good. A challenge we face is that corporations don’t often speak in a language of empathy and humanism. In this profit-driven sphere, social good is in fact deeply valued, but rarely discussed in terms framed from anything but a business perspective.

It is a powerful opportunity for businesses around the world to give employees an avenue to fulfill what is an innately human desire for meaning in our lives.

The term “transformation” feels big. It has an element of depth to it that, in the work domain, is often looked upon as, well … out of place (that’s putting it mildly). How do we reconcile budget, deadlines, and measurement with psychological and emotional shifts resulting in a greater capacity for empathy?

There are several answers to this (very complicated) question, and an important one is affective commitment. Affective commitment can be viewed as a foundational psychological state that filters through every aspect of the workplace.

The Three Component Model of Commitment is a psychological state with three distinct components that affect how employees feel about the organization where they work:

  • Affective commitment
    An employee’s emotional attachment to, identification with, and involvement in the organization.
  • Continuance commitment
    An employee’s awareness of the costs associated with leaving the organization.
  • Normative commitment
    A feeling of obligation to continue employment.

It is perceived that a high level of organizational commitment [affective commitment] can lead to many desirable outcomes for organizations, such as high productivity, low absenteeism, and low turnover intention. Intrinsic motivation has been shown by empirical studies to have a positive influence on employees’ organizational commitment.

But how does prosocial behavior result in affective commitment at work?

Why prosocial behavior and affective commitment are best buds

By offering employees support programs – in this case, systems and resources that support volunteerism or causes employees care about outside of work – companies demonstrate that they value employees. And employees who take part in these programs are more likely to feel valued. Adam Grant and co. took it a step further by examining the affective commitment companies can generate by opening up space for employees to give:

Our findings suggest that giving initiates a process of ‘prosocial sensemaking,’ in which giving leads employees to judge personal and company actions and identities as caring, and thereby strengthens their affective commitment to the company.”

The impact of an effective program:

  • On a personal level
    My company helped me realize a “hidden” identity – that I’m a caring individual doing good for others.
  • On a company level
    By organizing these activities, my company is caring, and I want to work for a caring company.

In this way, employees move from feeling obligation (normative commitment) or need (continuance commitment) to do their job to having an emotional attachment to and identification with their company (affective commitment). It’s important to note that affective commitment does not replace normative or continuance commitment – these psychological states can exist in tandem – but organizational citizenship behavior is proven to increase affective commitment, which in turn, makes for more engaged employees who identify strongly with their work and employer.

People look to volunteering in order to fulfill a desire for significance and value in their lives. This ability to find meaning in volunteering echoes the idea that a job can be a source of meaning.”

Corporations have the power to pursue employee volunteerism as not only a way to effectively engage employees, but to open up the space for transformation and connection to purpose in both the work and volunteer domains. It is a powerful opportunity for businesses around the world to give employees an avenue to fulfill what is an innately human desire for meaning in our lives.

Realized Worth designs and implements corporate volunteer programs. Call us to discuss opportunities for your company, or email us via You can also reach out to us on Facebook and Twitter.

Kelly Lynch
Project Manager, Brand and Content Specialist
Realized Worth