Are you altruistic
in the workplace?
The benefits of random acts of kindness
By Angela Civitella
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
When was the last time you surprised someone at your workplace with a cup of tea or coffee, just because you thought he or she might need it? Or how long has it been since a colleague brought in cakes, just as an unexpected treat for everyone?
It can be a real pleasure working in a friendly environment, where people greet one another with warm smiles and show genuine interest in colleagues’ wellbeing. And sometimes all it takes to create that positive atmosphere is a few “random acts of kindness”.
It’s entirely possible to have a productive and hardworking team in a workplace that is efficient, but ‘cold’ and impersonal. Perhaps you work in an industry where staff turnover is high and it is difficult for people to get to know one another. But you and your team can make things much better if you share a little kindness.
‘It can be a real pleasure working in a friendly environment, where people greet one another with warm smiles and show genuine interest in colleagues’ wellbeing.’
We explore what is meant by random acts of kindness, and we see how they can benefit you and your team. Maybe you would also feel inclined to try it out sometimes.
Make someone’s day by performing a random act of kindness.
What are random acts of kindness?
Writer Anne Herbert is thought to have coined the phrase in 1982, when she wrote “practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a placemat at a restaurant in California. Her book Random Kindness & Senseless Acts of Beauty was published in 1993.
There’s nothing complicated about a random act of kindness. It covers just about anything that you do purely for someone else’s benefit. As we’ve already mentioned, it could be bringing a colleague a cup of coffee or offering to help him out if he is “snowed under” with work.
‘There’s nothing complicated about a random act of kindness. It covers just about anything that you do purely for someone else’s benefit.’
The idea has proved immensely popular. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has established an annual International Random Acts of Kindness Week, and it has promoted February 17 as Random Acts of Kindness Day in the U.S.
The benefits of kindness
In his book Born To Be Good, Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, says that it’s in our nature to feel compassion toward other people and to act on it, even when there is no obvious personal reward. When we see someone in distress, our innate human response is to help. The roots of this behaviour may be based in our survival instincts: people who support and help one another are more likely to develop stronger social bonds and thrive as a community.
And while random acts of kindness are intended to benefit the people receiving them, numerous studies have shown that the people doing the good deeds also feel pleasure and happiness as a result.
When you perform random acts of kindness at work, you help build high-quality connections with your team members. And there are other ways that life in the workplace can be boosted by the knock-on effects of kindness. For example, if your kindness makes someone feel happy, she will likely be more engaged and successful. What’s more, people who feel supported and part of a friendly inclusive team will less likely feel angry or stressed.
‘… numerous studies have shown that the people doing the good deeds also feel pleasure and happiness as a result.’
There is a saying, “One good turn deserves another”. That means if you do someone a favour, chances are they will repay you in kind. And the same can be said for random acts of kindness. They can create a “ripple effect” whereby the person you help may be inspired to do the same for someone else, and so on in a virtual cascade of kindness. In fact, according to psychologist Jonathan Haidt, just witnessing an act of kindness can prompt someone to follow suit.
Random acts of kindness you can perform at work
There are many things you can do that count as random acts of kindness. Think about what would benefit the people around you or try to spot anything specific that a person may need. Here are ten ideas to get you started:
• Send someone a note of appreciation.
• Eat lunch with a new team member.
• Bring in cakes for your team.
• Offer a colleague a ride home.
• Give team members an impromptu afternoon off for doing a great job.
• Compliment someone to his boss.
• Help a co-worker with a project she’s struggling with, even when you’re busy.
• Volunteer as a first aider.
• Ask after a colleague’s sick relative, and listen to his answer.
• Smile at people you work with!
Change your activities every so often. Doing the same thing over and over can get boring and lose its impact. Similarly, performing acts of kindness for only one person or group may lead some individuals to feel left out. To avoid your acts of kindness becoming routine or perceived as favouritism, get creative, add some variety, and spread the warmth around.
‘Change your activities every so often. Doing the same thing over and over can get boring and lose its impact.’
Note: Compassion, empathy and altruism are natural human characteristics, but some people struggle with giving and receiving kindness. They may feel unsure or fearful of how others might perceive their actions. They may believe they have nothing to give, or feel that they don’t deserve to receive kindness, or question the motive for it.
Random acts of kindness can be big or small things you do just for the benefit of someone else. It also feels good to help or support people, although that is a happy consequence and not the intended aim of the act.
The knock-on effects of kindness in the workplace are considerable. It creates stronger bonds among team members, and can make them feel engaged and motivated, which can lead to better performance.
Any act of kindness that you perform with genuine altruism makes a difference to you, the recipient and your organization, whether it’s making someone a cup of coffee, listening to an anxious colleague, or bringing donuts to the morning meeting.
Can you think of any random acts of kindness you can do inside or outside of work?
Image: via StockPholio.com
Read also: The art of knowing how to apologize
Angela Civitella, a certified management business coach with more than 20 years of proven ability as a negotiator, strategist, and problem-solver, creates sound and solid synergies with those in quest of improving their leadership and team building skills. You can reach Angela at 514 254-2400 • linkedin.com/in/angelacivitella/ • intinde.com • @intinde