RAK - Random Acts of Kindness
Building Altruism at Work
"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."– Aesop
When was the last time you surprised someone at your workplace? Did you send them an unexpected thank-you note, or congratulate them on their work anniversary on your company messaging platform?
Working in a friendly environment, where colleagues greet one another with warm smiles and show interest in one another's well-being, can make all the difference to our levels of job satisfaction. And in these times of increased uncertainty and isolation, giving and receiving kindness is more important than ever.
But maybe you don't recognize that environment. Perhaps you're part of a team that's hardworking but impersonal and "cold." Sometimes, all it takes to create a positive atmosphere is a few simple "random acts of kindness" (RAK).
In this article, we explore what is meant by random acts of kindness, and how they can benefit you and your team. We also suggest 10 simple, socially distanced random acts of kindness to get you started! The video below – created before the COVID-19 pandemic – suggests RAKs for when we're safely back at our places of work.
Click here to view a transcript of this video.
What Is a RAK?
Writer Anne Herbert is thought to have coined the phrase in 1982, when she wrote "practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty" on a placemat in a restaurant in California. Her book, "Random Kindness & Senseless Acts of Beauty," was published in 1993.
A random act of kindness covers just about anything that you do purely for someone else's benefit – from helping a senior citizen cross the road to offering to take on some work from a colleague who is "snowed under."
The idea has proved immensely popular. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has established an annual International Random Acts of Kindness Week, and it has promoted February 17 as "Random Acts of Kindness Day."
The Benefits of Being Kind
In his 2009 book, "Born To Be Good," Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, argues that it's in our nature to feel compassion toward other people and to act on it, even when there is no obvious personal reward. The root of this behavior may lie in the fact that altruism leads to stronger social bonds and therefore helps to create a thriving community.
When you perform random acts of kindness at work, you help to build high-quality connections with your team members. And the knock-on effects of kindness can't be understated – for example, if your kindness makes someone feel happy, they will likely be more engaged and successful. What's more, people who feel supported and part of a friendly, inclusive team are less likely to become angry or stressed.
And while random acts of kindness are intended to benefit the people receiving them, numerous studies have shown that the people doing the good deeds also feel pleasure and happiness as a result.
There is a saying, "One good turn deserves another." That means if you do someone a favor, chances are you'll be repaid in kind. The same can be said for random acts of kindness. They can create a "ripple effect" whereby the person you help may be inspired to do the same for someone else, and so on in a virtual cascade of kindness. In fact, according to psychologist Jonathan Haidt, just witnessing an act of kindness can prompt someone to follow suit.
10 Random Acts of Kindness You Can Perform at Work
There are many things you could do that would count as a RAK. Think about what would benefit the people around you, or try to spot something specific that a person may need. Here are 10 ideas to get you started:
- Send someone a note of appreciation, either in person or via a messaging platform.
- Go one step further and send them a thank-you card in the post!
- Write a LinkedIn recommendation for a colleague or endorse a few of their skills.
- Give team members an impromptu afternoon off for doing a great job.
- Compliment someone to their boss or to the whole team.
- Offer your place at a conference to a colleague you know is desperate to go.
- Offer to help a co-worker with a challenging project, even when you're busy.
- Volunteer as a first aider.
- Ask after a colleague's family, and then really listen to their answer.
- Pay it back – if someone's been kind to you, go out of your way to be kind to someone else.
Remember to change it up every so often – a RAK loses its impact if you do the same thing over and over. Similarly, performing acts of kindness for only one person or group may lead to some feeling left out. To avoid your acts of kindness becoming routine or perceived as favoritism, get creative, add some variety, and spread the warmth around.
Some people struggle with giving and receiving kindness.
They may feel unsure or fearful of how others might perceive their actions. They may believe they have nothing to give, or feel that they don't deserve to receive kindness or question the motive for it.
The knock-on effects of kindness in the workplace are considerable. It creates stronger bonds among team members, and improves engagement and motivation.
Random acts of kindness can be big or small. Whether it's making someone a cup of coffee, listening to an anxious colleague, or posting a virtual thank-you message, an unsolicited act of kindness has a positive impact on everyone involved.
Apply This to Your Life
Can you think of any random acts of kindness that you can do inside or outside of work? Perhaps you can bring in your neighbor's garbage cans, visit an elderly relative, become a volunteer at a local shelter, or offer to look after a busy friend's children after school. The book "Random Acts of Kindness" provides lots more ideas.
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