How to create a positive ripple effect at work – Donna Thistlethwaite

Our family has visited the Woodford Folk Festival every second year for close to a decade and a half. It’s one of the highlights of my life because of the incredible musicians it attracts, the street art which is always a feast for the eyes, and the spiritual element associated with the program and the connection to land.

Every time we visit I find myself wishing that Woodford could be expanded beyond the property’s boundaries … that the energy and attitude of the place and the patrons could exist in the non-Woodford world. There is always an air of kindness at Woodford, whether it’s the smiles people exchange as they move through the site, the friendly chats in the occasional line or the neighbouring campers offering to pick up ice for you when they get theirs.

Last Woodford I had an experience that I think encapsulates its essence. Late on New Years Eve a cool breeze blew in and rather than go back to our tent for an outfit change, I visited one of the stalls to look for a garment that would keep me warm and serve as a Woodford keepsake. I found the perfect piece for $45, only to find that the stall holder didn’t take card, which was all I had with me. Rather than sending me on my way, the woman looked at me with kindness in her eyes and said “It’s okay, just take it, you can come back tomorrow and pay me”. This simple act of kindness brought me so much joy and reinforced my desire to live in a world where kindness is the norm rather than the exception.

This Friday, 13 November 2020, is World Kindness Day. Like many, you may not have known that there was such a day and I wonder if there’s other things that many may not know about kindness, for example:

Kindness is not only good for the person on the receiving end of our efforts, it has amazing health and wellbeing benefits for you, the giver? Research has proven a phenomenon called ‘Helpers High’, a chemical reaction that happens in our brain when we do something for someone else. Our brain releases happy hormones such as dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin which also counter the effects of cortisol, the stress hormone.

Emory University found that the same parts of our brain have been shown to activate when we think of doing something for someone else as when we think about experiencing rewards and pleasure.

Kindness has been shown to increase work and life satisfaction for the giver of the kindness and the receiver is almost three times more likely to pay it forward.  This was demonstrated in a Spanish study, involving workers with a large corporate doing five acts of kindness for coworkers they selected over a period of four weeks. The givers experienced benefits including higher levels of happiness and less depressive symptoms. They also found that kindness (referred to as prosocial behaviour) was “contagious” with those who received the acts of kindness showing 278% more prosocial behaviours than those in a control group. The researchers observed that the receivers paid the kind deeds forward to someone other than the giver and concluded that this was “due to a sense of elevation and desire to participate in an organisation that was treating them in an ideal way.” Imagine the ripple effect you could create in your workplace by introducing some intentional kindness.

“There’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple effect with no logical end.” – Scott Adams

It’s a big task to change the world but how great would it be to make a positive difference to your workplace as a start? Here’s a few tips for using kindness at work to help everyone to THRIVE.

  • Do a deliberate act of kindness for someone at work on World Kindness Day on Friday. Pay someone a compliment; open a door for someone; tell someone why they’re so awesome. You can start a ripple but please don’t stop there.
  • Visit the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation website for more information and ideas and talk to your team about the benefits of kindness. You could introduce a practice for the month leading up to Christmas. It’s been a huge year and it’ll be great to end on a high.
  • Play a round or two of Workplace Kindness Bingo. I’ve created a bingo card KINDNESS BINGO AT WORK to get you started (informed by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation’s resources). Have fun with it.

Let’s make kindness the norm rather than the exception. Why not start a ripple today? I would love to hear how it affects your workplace!

Chancellor, J., Margolis, S., Jacobs Bao, K., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2018). Everyday prosociality in the workplace: The reinforcing benefits of giving, getting, and glimpsing. Emotion, 18(4), 507–517.

Donna Thistlethwaite is a Brisbane-based inspirational speaker and trainer specialising in mental health and resilience. She is an accredited Mental Health First Aid instructor with a passion for suicide prevention and for helping individuals, teams and organisations to THRIVE. Find out about her upcoming Mental Health First Aid workshops here.

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