According to several pieces of research in the UK and the USA, the act of giving to others without any strings attached can have a profound effect on happiness and this idea can be applied effectively in the workplace to impact people’s happiness, fulfilment and job satisfaction.
Last year the Journal of Social Psychology did a survey measuring life satisfaction. They assigned 86 participants to three different groups. One group was instructed to perform a daily act of kindness for the next ten days. Another group was also told to do something new each day over those ten days.
A third group received no instructions. After ten days, the participants completed the life satisfaction survey again. The groups that practiced kindness and engaged in novel acts both experienced a significant—and roughly equal—boost in happiness; the third group didn’t get any happier.
The findings suggest that good deeds do in fact make people feel good—even when performed over as little as ten days—and there may be particular benefits to varying our acts of kindness, as novelty seems linked to happiness as well.
The subject of people performing random acts of kindness was the subject of a novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde ‘Pay It Forward’ which was turned into a film in 2000. The concept is simple – someone does you a good turn and you pass it on and they pass it on. It is about spreading kindness and making someone’s day through small acts that cost very little but have a big impact on others.
So how can these ideas be applied at work and what impact could they have?
Adam Grant, professor of management at Wharton University in the USA explains in his bestselling book ‘Give and Take – a revolutionary approach to success.’ how simple acts or ‘Five minute favours’ can be life changing.
Grant says these ‘favours’ can be performed daily because they only take up small chunks of time. Five minute favour ideas include sharing knowledge with colleagues, taking time to mentor someone when you are busy or introducing two people who will benefit in some way from meeting or networking with each other.
Grant became fascinated with the importance of giving following his experience as a new entrepreneur when he found that many people helped him without expecting anything in return. After working in Silicon Valley for a few years, he realised the practice of helping strangers was widespread and was essentially helping to fuel the growth of many start-ups.
He saw how the act of ‘giving back’ was helping companies find the right teams and get really good advice and feedback on new products.
Encouraging a culture of giving and kindness doesn’t cost anything and could make a big change to how people feel about their work and their colleagues and their happiness. Here are some ideas for five-minute favours that could spread a little happiness at work or even change someone’s life.
- Being a good reference for a colleague or a supplier on LinkedIn;
- Reviewing a product and proving helpful and concise feedback they can use;
- Sending an email thanking someone for a job well done and ensuring that people are copied in on it;
- Share, comment or retweet information given by a colleague or supplier;
- Being a mentor for someone;
- Remembering to thank people at all levels in a company;
- Doing some free work for a client but then asking them to ‘pay it forward’ and do it for someone else;
- Leave a chocolate or lottery ticket on someone’s desk anonymously; and
- Smile and make others smile. It could make someone’s day and it costs nothing.
Marielena Sabatier, chief executive of Inspiring Potential.
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