A few weeks ago, I spoke at Disrupt HR Detroit about how to make work suck less. One of my suggestions is to assume positive intentions…which can be really hard in many organizations.
My other suggestion is to help each other instead of hurt each other. This can also be difficult in many organizations that seem to thrive on a hunger games style of corporate warfare.
Admittedly I have good days and bad days when it comes to taking my own advice. And when I actually say these pieces of advice I get three reactions:
- A confused look as in “why the heck would I help my competition/these losers I work with/etc;”
- A laugh/chuckle/smirk as in “oh these HR people they are clueless to how the “real” world works
- A knowing smile and head nodding in agreement (usually from someone that is universally loved in the office
At the base of the confused looks or smirks is really a question that needs to be answered:
What’s In It For Me?
Most of us have been in situations where someone assumed the worst of our best intentions, where a co-worker didn’t help us, where the people we worked with made the work day suck.
Being on the receiving end of sucky behavior doesn’t exactly make us receptive to assuming the best of others or helping each other out.
BUT we can and should act differently because it’s good for us.
Being kind to others gives us the psychological benefit of making us happier and helps us view the world in a more compassionate perspective.
Where to start?
Until you know otherwise, assume positive intentions. Not everyone is out to get you/destroy you/annoy you or ruin your day. Until you know otherwise just assume everyone else is like you – doing their job and not trying to destroy others in the office
Help Each Other Out. This is an easy one. When you see someone struggling at work, offer to help out. Don’t participate in the gossip about how stressed out the other person looks, jump in and help or help them get help.
Practice Gratitude- Thank someone in-person, over email or text message every day or every other day. The key is to be specific in your thanks:
❌ “Nice job today” (too vague)
✅ “Your presentation today was fantastic! The research you presented will help us make a quick decision.”
And yes, there is compelling research to back up why you should practice gratitude.
If these seem like small gestures, you are right and that’s why I highlighted them in my DisruptHR talk. These small, “micro” behaviors are easy to do and don’t require a lot of effort but the impact is felt deeply within yourself and within your office.