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Why Acts of Kindness at Work Help Everyone


When was the last time someone went out of their way to be kind to you at work? Researchers at the University of California, led by Joseph Chancellor, carried out a study of the Coca Cola workforce in Madrid decided to determine how an act of kindness can have a ripple effect out into the wider organisation and working environment.

Do kind acts really make a difference?

We all love a kind act but do they really make a difference? I think they do, there have been times when people have been kind to me out of the blue and it’s really made my day in the immediate but then it’s also had a lasting impact, often making me feel happier and more content for days and even weeks afterwards. At work I’ve received lovely emails of thanks, been given flowers in appreciation, and been taken out for a surprise lunch or two. These acts make you feel appreciated and that makes you feel happier.

What did the Coca Cola study do?

The study group, made up of mostly women, were simply told that they were taking part in a study about happiness. Over a four week period they reported in weekly to explain how they were feeling, their mood and levels of satisfaction with their lives, what positive and negative behaviours they had experienced themselves, how many received as well as how many they had carried out. At the end of the four week period, the same group of participants reported on their happiness and job satisfaction again. But, 19 of the participants were actually working with the group of researchers and had been assigned the role of givers. It was their job each week, to carry out acts of kindness for their co-workers.

Fascinating outcomes

The results showed that these acts of kindness had a powerful impact, with the receivers of the kindnesses noting that there were more prosocial behaviours – involuntary behaviours intended to benefit another person – around the office and workplace than before, and at the end of the four week period they were reporting around ten times more of these prosocial behaviours that the control group.

Even a month later, after the study had ended, those who had been in the receivers group were experiencing higher levels of happiness around them than those in the control group. And the givers also found that giving was rewarding in and of itself, in fact it was actually found to be more rewarding than receiving on some indicators. The results of their one month post study follow up were also more impressive than the receiver’s results.

The givers levels of job satisfaction and life satisfaction were higher than the receivers and they experienced fewer symptoms of depression. Which would suggest that giving has a more lasting effect that receiving - all those times our parents told us “it’s better to give than to receive” make sense at last!

It was also found that those who received acts of kindness didn’t simply enjoy them and that’s that, they then went on to ‘pay them forward’ and at the end of the study they disclosed that they too were taking part in more prosocial behaviours that their control counterparts. The idea that prosocial behaviours are contagious isn’t new, but this study adds weight to the results already found in other research. As is also the case with anti-social behaviours too.

What can you do to get involved?

So, as the results show, acts of kindness carried out freely within a work setting create cycles of more and increasing kindness, and in turn satisfaction, within an organisation. This benefits everyone, the givers, the receivers and the workplace as a whole. So why not start by letting your colleagues know how much you love working with them?

Even the simplest things have a big impact. Is your team mate having a bad or stressful day? Make them a cuppa and give them an encouraging word or two. Has someone helped you out above and beyond their remit? Buy them a cake/coffee/flowers. You could even send an email to their boss telling them how much you value them and the help they gave you and copy them in. Leave a post-it note on someone’s desk if they’ve done something for you. You can find more tips in our blog Get Ready for Random Acts of Kindness Week.

So it’s true, kindness does have a ripple effect. All you have to do now is start it off with one small act of kindness and watch those ripples spread all around you.

Employee engagement


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