The ‘Logic of Gift’: Inspiring Behavior in Organizations Beyond the Limits of Duty and Exchange

Giving without the expectation of reward is difficult to understand in organizational contexts. In opposition to a logic based on self-interest or a sense of duty, a “logic of gift” has been proposed as a way to understand the phenomenon of free, unconditional giving. However, the rationale behind, and effects of, this logic have been under-explored. This paper responds by first clarifying the three logics of action—the logic of exchange, the logic of duty, and the logic of gift—and then explains how their balanced integration promises to enhance organizational life and outcomes. Having explicated the unique character and contributions of the logic of gift, the paper further suggests practical implications for management. Encouraging the logic of gift fosters more humane relationships within organizations and to enable individuals to be generous in ways that inspire trust and promote creativity.