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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

The Selfish Reason You Should Help Your Co-workers More Often

Not too long ago, I sent an email to everyone at my company asking them how they turn a bad day around. What little things, I wanted to know, do they do when the going gets rough? Because, as you know, leaving the office when you’re in a foul mood isn’t the answer. (And neither is punching your computer screen.)

Their responses ranged, but weren’t all that surprising: eat something sweet and delicious, exercise, go for a walk, vent to a roommate, listen to uplifting music, laugh at a funny podcast, grab a salty snack and hunker down. No one said “commit an act of kindness,” which isn’t a criticism. If you’re feeling grumpy for whatever reason, you may be inclined to shut down and turn away from people for fear of snapping at them and losing your professional cool.

But, actually, if you can force yourself to take a step back (and probably a breath or two) and engage in doing a small act of kindness, you’ll likely notice a “small, but significant boost to happiness.” A study published in Open Science Framework and featured on concludes that helping others can lift your spirits.

The study’s leader, Dr. Oliver Scott Curry, although admitting that there’s still a lot to be learned about this event, believes that the reason doing something nice for someone else makes you, the giver, feel good is because “random acts of kindness are a good way of making new friends, and kick-starting supportive social relationships.”

So, sure, go ahead and treat yourself to a sweet treat the next time you’re struggling to get through a challenging work day, but while you’re at it, pick one up for the person sitting next to you or the colleague who once told you that she can never get enough baked goods.

Or, go for that walk to clear your head—and see if someone else could use a break too. Or, practice putting your listening skills to use as you ask about how his day and work are going. Or, run out for a coffee, but before you leave see if anyone on your team needs you to pick anything up for them.

Little things can go a long way, and although it might not be the magic fix every time you’re having a rough day, it’s nice to know that the option’s available to you. After all, your kind act will not only sweeten a co-worker’s day, but you’ll be happier, too. That’s what we call a win-win.

Photo of women laughing courtesy of Paul Bradbury/Getty Images.