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Reciprocity is one of my favourite words that I always wish to write or speak about. To return the goodness shall definitely be something natural to a human. But, there have been things that show us the otherwise side of life. People around get to believe an age-old failed premise that one can grow by crushing the skulls of others.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t work anymore. It never worked even. Reciprocity and Cooperation at the Workplace have been forgotten gradually and at the same speed, the workplaces are failing as well. 

Here is the story:

The mouse looked through the crack and saw the farmer and his wife opening a package. What food could this be? But he was devastated to see that the package contained a mousetrap. He retreated to the farmyard and shouted, "There's a mousetrap in the house! There's a mousetrap in the house!"

The chicken clucked and said, "I can see you're concerned about this, Mouse, but it's of no concern to me."

The mouse ran to the pig and shouted, "There's a mousetrap in the house!" The pig said, "Too bad. But it's not of any concern to me."

The mouse ran to the cow, and he said, "There's a mousetrap in the house!" The cow said, "I can see your concern, but it's no skin off my nose."

The little mouse went back very sadly to face the mousetrap alone. That night there was the sound of the trap catching its prey. The farmer's wife rushed to the trap. In the dark, she did not see that the trap had captured the tail of a poisonous snake. The snake bit the farmer's wife. The farmer's wife developed a bad fever.

As you know, when someone gets a fever, what do you feed her? Chicken soup! The farmer got his axe and went to the farmyard to get the main ingredient.

The wife's illness continued. Many people came to visit her. The farmer needed to feed them all. He went to the farmyard once again and slaughtered the pig.

Unfortunately, the farmer's wife passed away from her illness. There was a large funeral, and of course, the folks at the funeral needed to be fed. Once again the farmer went to the farmyard, and this time he got the cow.


The moral of this story is:

  • When one of us is threatened, all of us are at risk.
  • Each of our problems is of concern to another.
  • Each of us is a vital thread in the tapestry of another's life.

The story does carry a common scenario of not getting enough fellow support at the workplace. I shall not put the blame on Bosses or the Leaders who may seem to bring the ‘mousetrap’. Sometimes, we ourselves create such a hurdle that hurts the growth of work for many others.

Framing someone with the intention to rise above them or decipher them from the scene, won’t work for long. There are people who mean business and do not tolerate it every time you try to beat them with meanness. So, it is better to follow the fundamental truth of existence which says: Live and Let Live!

If we don’t learn to co-exist then we are bound to perish!

Reciprocal Altruism is something interesting and we need more insights in this psychological aspect of human behaviour.

I got hold of this interesting thing called Prisoner's Dilemma. It might have the term mentioning a particular type of people, but the behaviour patterns and features resemble what we have just discussed above.

Wikipedia states:

The prisoner's dilemma is a standard example of a game analysed in game theory that shows why two completely rational individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so. It was originally framed by Merrill Flood and Melvin Dresher while working at RAND in 1950. Albert W. Tucker formalized the game with prison sentence rewards and named it "prisoner's dilemma", presenting it as follows:

Two members of a criminal gang are arrested and imprisoned. Each prisoner is in solitary confinement with no means of communicating with the other. The prosecutors lack sufficient evidence to convict the pair on the principal charge, but they have enough to convict both on a lesser charge. Simultaneously, the prosecutors offer each prisoner a bargain. Each prisoner is given the opportunity either to betray the other by testifying that the other committed the crime, or to cooperate with the other by remaining silent. The offer is:

  • If A and B each betray the other, each of them serves two years in prison
  • If A betrays B but B remains silent, A will be set free and B will serve three years in prison (and vice versa)
  • If A and B both remain silent, both of them will only serve one year in prison (on the lesser charge).

It is implied that the prisoners will have no opportunity to reward or punish their partner other than the prison sentences they get and that their decision will not affect their reputation in the future. Because betraying a partner offers a greater reward than cooperating with them, all purely rational self-interested prisoners will betray the other, meaning the only possible outcome for two purely rational prisoners is for them to betray each other. The interesting part of this result is that pursuing individual reward logically leads both of the prisoners to betray when they would get a better reward if they both kept silent. In reality, humans display a systemic bias towards cooperative behaviour in this and similar games despite what is predicted by simple models of "rational" self-interested action.


Workplaces survive tough times when the people who work there have the feeling of 'Being Together'.

About the Author
Author: Parveen Sharma Website:
'You Create Yourself' is the belief that drives the EklavyaParv! It is a Life Long Learning Mission with firm belief in the trilogy of Enhance-Empower-Encourage. We share learning contents on Communication Skills, EdTech, Life Skills, Blended & Innovative Learning and Insights about Education. Parveen is an EdTech Evangelist and has been working in the field of Innovation-driven Education for more than a decade. He writes and delivers training on EduSoMedia, E-Learning, OERs, MOOCs, EdTech, ICT, Blended and Flipped Learning, Academic Intervention, Classroom Makeover, Employability Enhancement, EdTech and Teacher-Student Learning. EklavyaParv is the celebration of his belief in the Learning Spirit of Mankind! Currently he is working at Amity University in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.