The world needs a lot more kindness, and it can start with you. Most people try to be kind - to varying degrees of success - but we can always do more. It starts at home, with our family, and extends out to our friends, and hopefully, even the strangers we encounter during our day.
But how much do we try at work with our colleagues? The workplace can be a stressful and demanding environment, leaving little time or energy for kindness. We may want to, or it may never cross our minds, but it invariably is the first thing cut from our list of priorities when we feel overwhelmed or crunched for time.
And that’s exactly when we need it most. Evidence definitively shows that being kind to others makes us happier, calmer, and less stressed. We actually derive greater happiness from doing something nice for someone else than we do for doing something nice for ourselves.
Kindness, it would seem, is almost selfish in that it gives us a mental and emotional boost. We feel good. But it also makes the other person feel good, too. It’s the very definition of win-win. There’s no downside to being kind.
Random acts of kindness can literally change the world, even on a small scale. Jean Jacques Rousseau asked, “What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?” Author and speaker Zig Ziglar reminded us that “You can have everything you want in life if you just help enough people get what they want in life.”
No matter how great or not-so-great your office is, you can make it better with kindness. Random, planned, spontaneous, and habitual.
And of course as Bill and Ted famously said, “Be excellent to each other.”
See Also: Is Kindness a Power?
1. Notes of Appreciation or Thanks
This one is a dying, if not dead, art. The note. The hand-written note. The hand-written note of appreciation or thanks. It takes only a few minutes, but leaving a note for a colleague to either compliment or congratulate them on a job well done (their latest presentation, closing the big sale, signing a new client) or to thank them for their assistance goes a long, long way. It speaks volumes as to your opinion of them and the value you place on them as both a co-worker and a friend. And a hand-written note on decent stationery bumps it up a notch. It adds a personal touch, something that a quick email or text - which is better than nothing - lacks.
Buy some stationery to keep in your desk, and use it. Not every day. Not all the time. But don’t save it like the good china, either. Be sincere and frequent with your praise and thanks. Imagine how good you’d feel finding a hand-written note on your desk or in your mail slot that thanked you for your efforts. You’d feel appreciated. Valued.
2. Sincere Compliments
Everyone loves a compliment, even if we don’t quite know how to respond to them (a simple “thanks” is really all you need. So hand them out like candy. But be sincere and genuine with them. Be selective, but not stingy. No one likes the office kiss-ass, so don’t a) only give them to your boss, or b) throw them out willy-nilly (they lose their power if you compliment everyone for everything).
We all do things that deserve a compliment from someone else. Way more than you might think. Recognize them, and grab the opportunity to compliment your co-workers when appropriate. Compliments make us feel happier and improve our self-esteem and self-confidence...as both the giver and receiver!
Compliments work best when they zero in on something concrete and specific. Instead of saying “Great job on the Miller account”, you praise one particular aspect, such as the killer demo they gave them, or how they handled their demanding CEO. It shows that you’re paying attention and not just offering lip service.
3. Pick Up, Fix Up, or Throw Out
There are lots of tiny annoyances in our lives. Many of them are easy and quick to deal with, but we don’t for some reason. Too busy, too little time, or can’t be bothered. But what if someone went that extra mile (or kilometre) for you? When you see the chance to do something for someone else, or the entire office, do it. Garbage left on the break room table? Don’t just grumble about it, throw it out. Someone’s door or chair squeaking a bit? Instead of letting it irritate you, bring in a can of WD-40 and fix it. Couple of boxes of copier paper in everyone’s way on the floor when they should be in the supply closet? Pick them up and put them away. Take five minutes and straighten up a common work space or desk. Your efforts will be noticed, and it will make everyone grateful and appreciative of you. The entire office will benefit, and very likely, you’ll soon see others mirroring the behaviour and doing the dozens of little things like those that need to be done. Instant happier office.
4. Don't Wait to be Asked
When’s the last time you asked someone if you could do something for them? Or offered your assistance with something? If you’re heading out of the office for some reason, ask if you can get anything for anyone on your way back. It might be a coffee, or pick up something at the printer, or whatever, but you’ll be saving a colleague from having to make a special trip. If you know your cubicle neighbour has a major report due in two days, and you have a bit of extra time, ask if there’s anything you can do to help them.
Most of us are afraid (for lack of a better word) to ask for help. But when someone offers it, we’d be quick to take them up on it. So don’t wait to be asked. Offer. With no thought of getting anything back in return. But you know what? You will.
5. Cookies or Coffee, Anyone?
Not everyday, but occasionally bringing in some cookies, muffins, or coffee for your colleagues is a simple gesture that everyone appreciates. You could start a trend, a virtuous circle where someone brings in a special treat each week on a rotating basis. It’s not a big deal, and it doesn’t make your job any easier, but it does create a positive workplace...and sometimes that’s all you need to make it through the day.
6. The Chuckle of the Week
Instead of constantly forwarding those “hilarious” emails throughout the day to everyone in your workplace address book (and clogging up their inbox), you could provide a much-needed smile, chuckle, guffaw, or snort at one particular time each week. Ideally either just before or just after work, send out a single, short message or feel-good link. Or print it off and attach it to the break room fridge or bulletin board.
Smiling and laughing make us feel good. It’s contagious. And we all love it. Anything you can do to increase the ratio of smiles to sighs (or sneers) in the office is a random act of kindness that we need more of.
7. Smile. And Say "Good Morning"
Or afternoon. Or evening. It’s too easy to spend the day in the office at your desk, with your head down, furiously chipping away at your to-do list. Yes, you need to do your job, and yes, you’ll almost always have something to do, but I don’t want to live in a world where people don’t have time to smile and say “hello” to each other in the morning, or “good night” to each other at the end of the work day. It only takes a few seconds, but it fosters and nurtures those office relationships. You need them. It connects us and reminds us that we are not alone...no matter how busy or bad our day is or might become.
Want another one? Leave your negativity at the door, or out in the parking lot. Don’t bring it with you to the office, as negativity and complaining begets negativity and complaining. There are infinite opportunities for kindness when you stop and look for them. Some are big; some are small. Some cost you a few bucks and others are free. Try them all at least once. You may find that you become a kindness junkie and don’t ever want to stop.
And just imagine how wonderful the world would be if that were true for all of us. Random acts of kindness don’t need to be massive and earth-shattering. They just need to be.
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” ~Aesop
Is your office a kind workplace? What have you done to make it better? Leave your ideas in the thoughts below.