Article: From Paucity Mindset to an Abundance Mindset

Life @ Work

From Paucity Mindset to an Abundance Mindset

The fear of getting left behind, often leads to behaviour that proves to be unhealthy for self and the business in the long-run. Here are some ways in which leaders can change the approach and safeguard interests of each and every employee and business.
From Paucity Mindset to an Abundance Mindset

It’s a rainy day, though the light drizzle has barely wet the roads. As you approach the intersection with the traffic lights conked off your heart sinks, the intersection has jammed up. How you wonder, just how! The answer stares you right in the eye, everyone trying to cross the intersection at the same time, afraid if they let someone else get past they will get stuck and won’t get through. This ends up creating a situation where everyone gets delayed, which is acceptable to people rather than risk giving way. There isn’t really a dearth of space, just the first attitude accentuated by a slight adverse turn of events. If everyone behaved with a little more patience, everyone could easily cross just like any other day. One or two people panic, or try to get through first, and everyone panics that they’ll get stuck in the jam and others will get through. 

I’ll get left behind! Have you ever had this feeling?

The Paucity Mindset, something that many of us witness and often end up being an active or passive part of on a regular basis. Simply put, when someone acts as though there isn’t enough for everyone and if they don’t grab first, grab enough, or hold on tight there may not be anything left for them. That they’ll be left behind. 

The challenge with Paucity Mindset is that it occurs due to one of the most primal instincts of humans…Self-Preservation! While self-preservation isn’t bad by itself, but where accentuated, it kicks in the need to hoard resources where the situation by itself doesn’t require it, but your fear or greed drives you to believe so. If this phenomenon is as pervasive in existence as a traffic jam then wouldn’t you wonder whether a lot of the behavioural issues we see in organizational scenarios are also driven by this Paucity Mindset? 

From business leaders actively scuttling someone else’s initiative, managers not willing to release their top performers for IJP, colleagues refraining from helping their peers or juniors for the fear of them getting a step up, to managers getting envious of team members and taking credit due to them, we’ve all come across the Paucity Mindset at work in the organization on a daily basis

For instance, once a client had mentioned their challenge regarding Internal Job Postings (IJP). An employee (relatively good) had seen this IJP in another team that piqued his/her interest and applied. When the manager got to know,  didn’t want to let this trained person go, and was also worried about how long it would take to hire or internally move someone new. A few calls were made and that was that for the hopes of this employee to try a new role of own volition. When people feel afraid that they will get left behind, they tend to make decisions with the aim of not letting others get ahead. This sort of behaviour and practice holds the back and proves to be unhealthy for business in the long-run.  

Is there a different view of the world, something better from which we can operate? Yes, there is. All you need to do is twist your approach and replace the Paucity Mindset by Abundance Mindset. 

When people believe that there is enough for everyone and that belief powers even a bad situation into becoming better it’s the Abundance Mindset in action. The abundance mindset finds its roots in both fearlessness as well as empathy for others. Examples of Abundance mindset are found right from Indian mythology where Draupadi served Krishna a grain of rice and asked him to feed himself and the world to the famous meme of the hungry beggar who gave half his bread to the hungry dog. All you have to do is change at how you look at things, and what once was a challenge suddenly becomes an opportunity. 

But how can organizations and leaders replace the Paucity Mindset and inculcate an Abundance Mindset is the question. Here are some ways: 


  • Career decisions such as performance, promotions and role changes are driven through a panel rather than just individual managers.
  • A Chief of Staff or Project Management Office to drive multi-stakeholder projects, especially ones with organization-wide implications and political undercurrents.


  • IJP applications kept confidential with the reporting manager in the blind or with no say in the process if a candidate gets selected. To assuage fears transition time is balanced so that the current team manager is not penalized for resources unduly.
  • Managers evaluated on developing and growing their team members, which flips the problem and nudges them to approach the situation from an Abundance Mindset.


  • Encourage a culture of sharing by providing opportunities for employees to contribute meaningfully and selflessly to society.
  • Create platforms/ forums for employees to share their knowledge.

Reward and Recognition:

  • Recognize not just performance but also behavioural aspects such as collaboration, knowledge sharing, etc. 
  • Reward performance not only on individual metrics but also on cross or shared metrics.


  • Leaders need to keep an active eye out for people, especially Senior Executives and People Managers who tend to feel insecure easily. In this case, it is helpful to build both formal and informal effective communication channels so that inputs about behaviours of people find their way to you and don’t get suppressed.
  • Nurture those who in other behavioural/ performance aspects are fine but need to work on their insecurities. Weed out those who despite efforts seem incorrigible, even if they are high performers. Organizations are built on the back of teams, not rainmakers.

And the most important part of this transition is us. We need to identify our own fears and insecurities and work to overcome them. When we believe that there is enough for everybody, only then will that reality come true.

Try and find out for yourself if the world would work much better with an Abundance Mindset!

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Topics: Life @ Work, Employee Relations

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