Kindness and the ‘good deed effect’ on work relationships

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teamwork photo-1500015139098-84b51c349a60.jpgAltruism brings psychological benefits to the workplace for recipients and givers alike.

The secret to keeping workers happy and motivated revolves around relationships.

Positive emotions are the root of human motivation, says Marcel Schwantes, CEO of Leadership at the Core.

“Managers must acquire the knowledge of what makes people tick and what inspires human beings to perform at a high level,” he says. It may be as simple as offering compliments. Folks thrive on feeling valued and understood, and they want to know what’s going on, Schwantes says.

Paul Nichols, founder of an executive coaching firm in Charlotte, North Carolina, says people who feel good about the those they “work for and with” are more likely to perform good deeds. “It’s about doing the right thing and, of course, doing things right.”

The giving brain

According to, there is scientific proof that individuals who assist or support othersexperience a “helper’s high.” Brain scans and MRIs have shown a "compassion-altruism axis" that is “very active during deeply empathic and compassionate emotions.”

One leader who lives to give is Carol Kivler, founder of Kivler Communications. She says altruism is all about being fulfilled: “You can’t help someone else without helping yourself. The universe is reciprocal. What you put out, you receive.” 

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Kivler—taking the lead from one of her church’s “act of kindness” initiatives—has been on a personal mission to perform good deeds. “Every Dec. 1, I put five new $50 bills in my wallet. As I go through the month, I am on a lookout for who I can share $50 with. It does more for me than the recipient. I’m on such a high when I give it away,” she says.

In the workplace, Kivler suggests that leaders set a goal of performing five good deeds a month. It can be as simple as leaving a candy bar on an employee’s chair or attaching balloons to someone’s computer screen. If someone has been working late and missing dinner at home, Kivler says bosses could buy a restaurant gift card to show their appreciation.

These are not big or costly things, but they show team members that you care and notice. “We’ve lost a bit of that,” Kivler says. It boosts morale, motivates people and can improve the bottom line, she adds.

“People are your biggest commodity in business. Take care of people, and they’ll take care of your customers,” Kivler says.

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