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Blog : Random acts of kindness


Random acts of kindness

Director Jo Harley looks at how being kind to others, may impact on our own experiences at work.

One of the questions that we always ask people when they're completing their planning for their talent toolbox performance review is: 'on a scale of 1-10 how happy are you in your role?' The idea behind this is that we can benchmark organisational happiness year on year and against our latest benchmarking figures (53% of people were 'extremely happy' in their roles last year). More importantly, however, it gives the manager the opportunity to ask in the one to one meeting, 'what would make you a 10' or 'what can we do to make you happier at work'.

We have always believed that the manager/company are instrumental in a person's happiness at work. To a point I am sure this is still very true, and we have been helping companies to do this for years (if you want some pointers then drop helen@learnpurple.com an e mail and she'll be delighted to talk to you). Anyway, I was reading something at the weekend that has made me think twice about this; and wonder if on some level its actually down to the individual to do what they can in the workplace to ensure they are happy too. After all, isn't happiness a state of mind? In his book 'Authentic Happiness', Martin Seligman, one of the founders of positive psychology, describes happiness as consisting of "positive emotions" and "positive activities". Wikipedia states that happiness is 'a state of mind or feeling characterised by contentment, love, satisfaction, pleasure, or joy'. If you think about these emotions in terms of the workplace what is it that brings these about? What is it at work that brings you pleasure or joy?

For me it is when I have achieved something, and for me that achievement is usually measured in terms of making someone else (a colleague, a client, my MD) happy. Whether it's by delivering superb customer service, delivering on our targets or giving praise where it is due. So, at work, I feel at my happiest when I am making someone else happy. Which brings me back to the article that I was reading this weekend, by Jessica Brinton for 'Style' magazine. This is the premise that at the moment it is 'cool to be kind'. Perhaps this is because of the economic climate; or the awareness of green issues in the workplace - but it is definitely something that I have noticed happening - and the best thing, it's free!

There are now websites dedicated to spreading kindness, www.extremekindness.com; www.helpothers.org; www.actsofkindness.com and whilst they may be a bit 'American' for us cynical Brits, the message is the same: do something kind for someone else and you will feel great about yourself. It's not new, and it's not rocket science. Some of our trainers have been teaching this for years - they use the 'Bank of Emotions' concept to illustrate to delegates how by 'paying in' to someone's bank you are then able to 'withdraw' more at a later stage. So for example if you pay in by making an effort to smile at people every morning, then the one day you come in and are scowling - people are likely to be understanding, supportive and not be annoyed that you are moody. If you are always frowning, well, you get where I am going.

However, in times of high stress and uncertainty it is easy to forget. In 2008 a group of twentysomethings launched the 'Kindness offensive' to 'do good in the world, have fun doing good, and be seen to have fun doing good'. This initiative has brought a lot of happiness to a lot of Londoners.

So my question is: what can we do that will make a difference to someone else in our workplace? What random act of kindness could you do today that will make someone you interact with feel good? Do it now, and I bet you will feel happier as a result. Do it every day and the next time you are asked how happy you are at work and why, you will be able to rate yourself as very happy without relying on someone else to do it for you, plus, you will have made the world a better place for someone else!

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