How YOU can generate kindness in the workplace
(and brighten someone’s day in five minutes or less!)
One of my ‘Friday jobs’ (as part of life working in internal communications) is to wander around our beautiful big central London building to visit all the different departments, update their staff notices, promote whatever’s going on (official business), and share some gossip (unofficial business).
When I returned to my desk after one such round recently, my boss told me that someone in another area, Ashley, had sent him a really nice email about me.
Ashley specifically emailed my boss to share that I represent my team in a positive way both in person and via phone and email. She made the comment that she thinks it’s important to highlight the good going on around us because it’s too easy to dwell on the negatives.
I share Ashley’s sentiment, and while I make a point to always genuinely thank or compliment friends and colleagues in my own way of generating kindness in the workplace, what struck me about her gesture was that she put herself out there and sent feedback to my manager.
That type of action is thoughtful and really matters. It didn’t just brighten my day, but my week which in all honesty had been long, tiring and reasonably stressful.
It got me thinking, what other ways could we each bring a little kindness into work?
4 ways to implement kindness in the workplace today
Thank you cards
I have a little stash of thank you cards at work and I hand write a note on one every now and then when I notice someone has gone out of their way for others.
Certainly, I’m no-one special at work – not a senior manager or anything – but that doesn’t matter to the recipient who is always grateful that someone noticed and cared about their efforts.
Pay attention to what’s going on around you
We are always so busy and stuck in our own deadlines that it’s easy to miss that others are in the same boat.
Being a little mindful and supportive can go a long way.
A hard-working friend of mine, Isabelle, was run down with a cold recently and she was really touched that a nurturing colleague, Emma, picked up some effervescent vitamin C for her while she was out on her lunch break.
They aren’t even in the same team, but Emma clocked that this could make a difference to Isabelle (who was also about to take a long flight to China to visit her sister), and she was right – this was a nice thing to do, at just the right time.
Similarly, two colleagues I work with this week noticed I seemed to be having a tough afternoon and promptly delivered chocolate to my desk. While I very much enjoyed eating the treats, their thoughtfulness cheered me up (thanks Caroline and Izzy!).
Start a gratitude initiative
We have staff noticeboards in all departments at work, and one of our jobs as internal communicators is to use these to build morale and engagement.
We’ve pinned pretty little cloth pouches (jewellery bags I found on eBay) to each board and filled these with coloured cards and pens; staff are encouraged to use these to pin notes on the boards. The messages can be about anything, including events, goods for sale, or praise for co-workers.
More specifically, I’ve pinned up A4 pages that go on the boards blank except for a heading: ‘Thank a colleague who you don’t usually work with who has made a positive difference to you’.
In some departments we’ve ended up with pages of notes from people who have shared messages of thanks (either including their names or anonymously).
When staff see someone’s thanked them in that public space it gives them a nice buzz, and generates wider feelings of happiness throughout the office.
This same concept can be applied using postcards, notes in your internal magazine or newsletters, and on intranet notices, digital thank you cards or conversation threads.
A few words go a long way
Finally, taking a lesson from Ashley’s kind gesture, it only takes a moment to email someone a genuine message of praise or gratitude.
Or, be proactive and let someone’s manager know an awesome job is being done – you might be surprised to know how little this happens!
In my experience people often assume things are a ‘given’; that gratitude or compliments are dished out freely (by someone else!). Often they are not.
Yet, countless human resources survey results have revealed that people are much happier and far more productive when they feel appreciated by managers as well as peers.
Imagine the difference that we would all experience at work if each of us took responsibility for implementing just one small kind action for someone else every week.
I’d love to hear about your tips, ideas and experiences around kindness in the workplace… Is it really possible to make an office happier, do you think?
After a very nice break away, yesterday I returned to discover a bulging inbox which left me feeling more than a tad overwhelmed, and to make matters worse, one of the first emails I opened turned out to be a lengthy rant about a piece of content I hadn’t complemented with a photo. The feedback was reasonable enough – I had been forced to rush through a digital feature that was to be attached to a marketing email, and the copy had been supplied at the last minute. Because I was extremely short on time, I failed to include a larger photo on this accompanying attached content, and absolutely agree that it would have been the better way forward. No excuses, and I for one am well aware that the best learning usually comes from recognising the mistakes I’ve made (or how I could have improved).
Only thing is, this message from a reader was shared in such a way that it was upsetting, and the tone of voice used was that of an individual who came across (in this email, at least) as one who assumes they know better.
It was really obvious they had not considered:
- My (as the content creator) feelings and the amount of work actually put into the entire body of work in the first place.
- Other time constraints and workload pressures I might be facing.
- All the other things in the overall campaign I’d actually got right!
Do you know the feeling?
Many of you reading this spend much of your day putting yourselves ‘out there’, creatively speaking and otherwise. Whether you are broadcasting on air, writing, blogging, filming, painting or working in PR and communications – it’s all a bit of a risky business for the ego. Some would even say we’re brave for doing it. I know a lot of people who are apprehensive about sharing their ideas, content or stories for fear of any type of criticism.
As content creators and communicators, we are consistently in a position where we need to produce written work or other creative output (videos, social media, blogs, magazine features etc.), and with that opportunity comes the people who are quick to judge our work, and not often in a constructive way.
We’re all pretty used to being ‘judged’, and I think most of the time this actually helps with positive personal and professional growth. Cooper and I began our careers in radio – an industry rife with arrogance and daily criticism of your work! That said, when delivered well, this really can help you become a far better on-air announcer than you ever would without feedback. Similarly, my mentors in publishing consistently showed me better ways to phrase, word, style and so on. This is how we hone a craft. This experience also helps you to develop a thick skin, which is something of a necessity in this and many other lines of work.
Criticism delivered in a negative, thoughtless or hurtful way though (whether intentional or unintentional on the part of the person sharing it), can have an adverse impact on self-esteem and confidence, and for those working in communications and creative industries, it has the potential to cause real problems.
People tend to be quick to pick problems, but very slow to share praise or thanks in the form of emails or comments on social media, websites or blogs. Have you ever been on the receiving end of destructive criticism and what kind of impact did it have on you?
These kinds of experiences remind me to think twice if I catch myself being judgmental and critical of other people’s work, because actually, they’re likely to have put much time and effort into the ideas, reason and production of the content being consumed out there in the public domain (whether you thoroughly enjoy it or not). Sharing feedback on someone’s published work is actually challenging their abilities and ideas, and it’s reasonable to expect that what comes back – if not entirely positive – should be designed to help them grow.
Moral of the story: give feedback constructively not destructively; and if you’re on the receiving end, take the valuable learning from it, and leave the rest at the door.
Today’s challenge: When you see something online today (on social media, a website, news site or blog) that’s helpful, makes you smile or feel inspired, drop a positive comment there to let the person behind it know you appreciate the thought and time they’ve put in.
Students, job seekers and anyone pitching anything, listen up.
My brother, Josh, and I were discussing emails yesterday. I know, our lives are super exciting, right? Seriously though, we were talking about how easy it is to mess up a first impression in the written form, specifically via email. Anyone who knows Josh and I will agree that we’re fairly easy going, but there are some standards that are a little too low to accept, even for us. And boy, have we encountered some doozies over the past ten years! He works in a different field than I, but the mistakes made (or in many cases, laziness) by those sending emails is similar across all industries these days. Whether you are applying for a job, internship or work experience; or you are corresponding with teachers and lecturers, recruitment companies, a potential client, business associate or promotional partner, first impressions count, even on email!
Here’s 5 tips on how to get on the right side of the receiving end.
The 5 rules of email first impressions
Don’t be arrogant and assume use of first names or “Miss”, “Mrs” etc. Do your research. Find out what they like to be addressed as. If you are approaching a lecturer at university, for example, don’t simply whip out a, “Dear Mrs Anderson,” when she is actually “Dr Anderson”. Doing some research so that you can address someone appropriately shows respect. Due to texting and social media we tend to be very blasé now and err towards the use of informal language, but good old fashioned manners and respect will get you much further in the end (and it never hurt anyone); at least until you know the person better.
2. Play at the level you aspire to
Triple check simple things − spelling! Let me repeat − spelling! On that note, assuming you’re corresponding in English, if you’re in Australia, do not let Americanised versions of words slip through (“z” in words instead of “s”, “color” instead of “colour” and so on). By the same token, if you are addressing an American audience, ensure your spelling is appropriate (i.e. not British English variations). It takes two seconds to check options on Google, so don’t be lazy, just do it. Additionally, if your unsure of grammar or which words to use, check them. For example, what would I have lost “first impression points” for in the previous sentence?
Check the details − is their name spelled correctly, have you included all relevant reference items regarding the subject of the email; are places, dates, locations all relevant and correct?
3. Read instructions
Do some research before you approach people via email. Are there guidelines listed on a website or handbook you’ve received? Is there a process you should be following in order to be well received?
Does your subject line makes sense? Is it to the point or does it sound spammy? Remember, most people receive in excess of 100 emails per day now (700 in my case), that’s not to mention all the social media alerts that also pop up on our screens. If your subject line is irrelevant, includes errors or isn’t going to catch the recipient’s attention, you can forget about your correspondence being read.
Ensure your email is succinct (general rule of thumb is it should not be longer than three paragraphs), polite and professional. Use your words too, not slang or text speak. “Gonna”, “BTW” and “MSG” are not appropriate in an email where you need to make a positive first impression or where you do not know the recipient well. Check sentence structure and ensure capitalisation is appropriate and not under/over done .
Finally, do not send 20mb attachments unless you are invited to. It’s frustrating. Your resume or portfolio may rock, but it will be deleted in annoyance and never considered if you clog up a busy person’s inbox. Check it before pressing ‘send’, or be polite and ask first.
5. Don’t be a time waster
In the first place, are you approaching the correct person in the organisation? If you are pitching a story to a magazine, do not email the sales manager, email the editor. Similarly, if you are raising an issue with a teacher or lecturer, do not email the department administrator. Do your homework, discover the details of the person who you need to liaise with directly, and pursue accordingly. Why should busy employees and managers have to pass your email from person to person before it arrives in the inbox it should have gone to in the first place? By this time, you will have annoyed a number of people, if not lost your chance altogether at making a great first impression.
Always sign off with appropriate contact details − do not make the receiver hunt around in files or past emails for your phone number or point of reference. Make life easy for the recipient, and you will be well received.
What issues have you encountered regarding email correspondence? I’d love your thoughts/comments/advice on the rules of email first impressions − please do drop us a line in the comments below.
By Sarah Blinco.
Want more training or mentoring on DIY social media, PR and digital etiquette? Let’s talk. Contact me today.