Acts of workplace kindness

Alison Best




A note was left on a vending machine at a cancer hospital in Manchester asking people to help themselves to free treats. Staff at The Christie found the anonymous note on Sunday on a machine where the tray had been left full of paid-for snacks. The donor said they hoped the "random act of kindness" would "brighten up someone's day". Nurse Emma Widdowson said: "It made me feel so happy I was beaming all day." "Who doesn't want choccie on a Sunday?" she added.

I hadn't heard about Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) week until yesterday (BBC Breakfast). We’re inundated with so many weeks dedicated to so many good causes it's hard to give them all proper attention, but I think this one deserves some thought.

Our mission at byrne·dean is to help create kinder, fairer, more productive workplaces. The kindness aspect of the mission is really crucial (though probably the one I have thought and talked least about). RAK week isn’t specifically about the workplace but it could have a massive positive impact.

Aldous Huxley said, “It’s rather embarrassing to have given one’s entire life to pondering the human predicament and to find that in the end one has little more to say than, ‘Try to be a little kinder.'”

I think that sentiment applies to pondering the workplace predicament too. Could getting workplace culture right really be as simple as trying to be a little kinder? Perhaps it's not a silver bullet, but what would it be like if every individual in your workplace was just a little kinder today? What impact would it have if each person consciously performed one selfless, random act of kindness in support of RAK week? It spreads. Those small individual contributions of support, consideration, thoughtfulness or help could very quickly add up to a cultural sea change. In this kinder workplace you then see the knock on impact on trust, respect, collegiality, and, yes, productivity…

You can only start with you. If you’re faced with deadlines, time pressures, demanding clients, challenging targets, limited resources, etc. you're going to need to show yourself some compassion to begin with. It’s so much easier to be kind to others when you’re being kind to yourself.

It’s not about grand gestures. A heartfelt a word of appreciation, a cup of coffee, an authentic conversation, a chocolate biscuit (!), cutting someone some slack, or a well-timed offer of help might all be good places to start. It’s easier to do this for the people you already feel warm towards at work. But the positive impact might be greater still if you made a conscious effort to be a little kinder to the others too, even people you, perhaps, find ‘challenging’?

Please do take a look at RAK ( I wonder if “RAWK” has legs as a sub-group (Random Acts of Workplace Kindness)? I might suggest it...

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