10 Ways to Spread Kindness at Work

Disruptive behaviors feel like they are on the rise – and not just in healthcare. Bad behaviors are showing up across the globe, in our cities, our schools, neighborhoods, and our homes. Every day we witness acts of cruelty, ignorance, bullying, incivility, and just plan ol’ meanness. We could just sit around complaining about it and share the horror on Facebook – or we can do something about it.

As I have written about many times, we are all influenced by the people we spend the most time with, the music we listen to, movies we watch, books we read, what we listen to on the radio, etc.

Your environment shapes your perception of the world and therefore, shapes other people’s perception. If you expose your brain to negativity – people who constantly complain, negative news, violent movies, bullies, coworkers who gossip, mock, and talk badly about other coworkers – your world will look cruel.

However, if you expose your brain to positivity – people who consistently talk about good things, listen to motivating messages and watch inspiring movies, etc… if you surround yourself with heroes, do-gooders, and kind people – your world will look kind.

The antidote to cruelty is to spread kindness.

To help you influence YOUR workplace, I’m starting a Kindness Revolution to STOP bullying and incivility in healthcare.

I reached out to my community on Facebook and asked for ways other nurses are doing their part to spread kindness and influence their coworker’s perception of the world. Some of these ways are theirs and some are mine. Some are general, while some are specific.

10 Ways to Spread Kindness at Work

1. Go out of your way to help a coworker in need

If you know a coworker is having a rough time or has an ill child at home, help him or her with patient care that day.  So often nurses work short staffed but two nurses together tackling a total care patient can be a time to bond & wow. Lacresha Hearn RN, Trauma and Emergency, Michigan

2. Feed people

Nellie Jones, CMSRN, a practicing medsurg nurse in Indiana, brings a crockpot meal every weekend she works because in her organization, the cafeteria closes early on the weekends. By doing this, she makes sure her coworkers are fed!!

Find out what someone’s favorite snack food is (mine is popcorn!) and surprise him/her with that yummy treat – just because.

When I was an educator, I would carry granola bars with me when I rounded on my assigned units.  Any time I noticed a nurse(s) looking a bit stressed, I would ask them if they ate anything. If they hadn’t, I would hand them an “emergency bar.”

3. Create a “Share a Compliment Box”

Many departments have suggestion boxes. Instead, why not create a “compliment box” where everyone is encouraged to compliment their coworkers by writing down something positive about them on a small piece of paper, folding it up, and dropping it in the box. Once a month at the staff meeting, read the compliments out loud for everyone to hear (remember…influence!!).

4. Build a “kindness board”

My sister Tina is a nurse in southern California who did this at her work. She built a board in her break room filled with positive messages, inspirational pictures (probably cute baby and puppy pictures), and encouraging affirmations. Any time someone was having a cranky day, she would say, “go to the kindness board!!” She’s so funny. She would even walk them right to the board and say, “Now read this and don’t come back out until you feel better.” I love her! Tina Durham, RN, Mother Baby Nurse, CA.

5. Include a positive affirmation in every huddle

Typically huddles include things like – who’s a fall risk, how many foleys you have on the unit, expected discharges/admissions, etc. Why not use this opportunity to influence everyone to be kind by including a positive affirmation? Try any of these:

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” ~Aesop

“Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.” ~Eric Hoffer

“Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” ~Plato

6. Create a kindness wall

Similar to what my sister did, find a place in your break room that employees can post one affirmation or note of encouragement on a sticky note. Encourage everyone – every day to “take” and “give” a kind note.

7. Find every opportunity to recognize and thank your employees for their great work!

Food is usually a winner but so is sending a thank you card or personally thanking employees – face-to-face for what they do.  Elisa Romero, RN Director of Operations, California

Dr. Michael Grossman sets an intention every day to do 3-5 kind acts that day. He often hands people his book, “Kindness” when they say, “Thanks for being so kind.”

When we obsess in what’s wrong, we miss what’s right.

8. Random acts of kindness

As you know, random acts of kindness have been shown to create more joy within the person “giving” than the person receiving.

Buy a coworker a “good” cup of coffee and put it on his or her desk.

I’m a huge note-card fan. Why not find an inspirational note-card and give it to a coworker who might not expect it.

Clean up the break room (and that awful, disgusting microwave) even though you didn’t create the mess.

9. Find reasons to celebrate the goodness

On Trish’s unit, they have a Sunshine Fund. Everyone contributes $25 a year to be used to celebrate employee’s birthdays! They also draw names during Thanksgiving week and then hang stocking for Christmas. Each employee then puts a present in the stocking of the coworker whose name they drew. Trisha Vickers, Professional Nurse Georgia

10. Spread messages of kindness EVERYWHERE!!

Post messages in the break room, hallways, nurses’ station, bathroom, supply room, and on the patient’s white boards – EVERYWHERE!! Like a virus, kindness will spread!

I recently created a “BE KIND” button that you can wear on your jacket at work. Just another reminder to everyone that kindness matters! And if you’re on social, use the hashtag #Bekind as a way to influence others to spread kindness at work – not cruelty. Click here to get my Be Kind Buttons for your department.

And one last bonus tip: Give hugs.

Studies show that when humans hug, fist bump, give pats on the back; it increases positive emotions and strengthens relationships.  And guess what? Hugs are free! I’m a HUGE hugger!!! Like Buddy said in the movie Elf, “Hugs are my favorite.”

Let’s all resolve to treat each other with KINDNESS – not cruelty!!  #bekind

As the late Mother Teresa said so well,…

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.  Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”

What other ways do you spread kindness at your workplace? Please post in the comment section below. We’d all love to learn more ways to spread kindness!!

Be kind. Take care. Stay connected.

Helping you cultivate a healthy happy workforce,

About Renee Thompson

Dr. Renee Thompson is a keynote speaker, author and professional development/anti-bullying thought leader. Renee spends the majority of her time helping healthcare and academic organizations address and eliminate bullying behavior. To find out how you can bring Renee to YOUR organization or nursing event, visit www.healthyworkforceinstitute.com

There are 8 comments on this post
  • Renee Thompson
    Parenting Center
    Dec 01, 2018 Reply

    This is really great advice! I find it very encouraging. Every mom must read this

    • Renee Thompson
      Renee Thompson
      Dec 02, 2018 Reply

      Thanks for taking the time to comment! Yes. These tips can be adapted to parenting too!

  • Renee Thompson
    Lynne
    Sep 27, 2018 Reply

    Thanks for your encouraging words Dr. Renee. Work can be stressful enough without taking it out on one another in the midst of such moments. The continuity of our kindness to one another is an example of why nurses are the most trusted professionals in patient care. It is our positive attitude that makes a difference for a patient or nurse colleague having a bad day. I agree that it takes intentional reflection on what is important so we can act kindly to all those around us!

    • Renee Thompson
      Renee Thompson
      Sep 30, 2018 Reply

      Yes yes! Thanks Lynne. If we would just spend half the energy supporting each other as we do squashing each other, we could make a bigger positive impact in healthcare. It's my goal to create and sustain a movement of nurses, physicians, and support staff who recognize the importance of respect, kindness, and professionalism in healthcare.

  • Renee Thompson
    Naomi Kraan
    Sep 11, 2018 Reply

    I recently wrote each coworker an encouraging tag and gave them annomously. One person figured it was me and asked me, but I noticed a happier group of coworkers. Time to do that again!

    • Renee Thompson
      Renee Thompson
      Sep 12, 2018 Reply

      I love this Naomi! yes...repeated over time, kind and encouraging words and compliments can change a culture!!

  • Renee Thompson
    Elisa Romero RN CMSRN MSN
    Sep 10, 2018 Reply

    In the outpatient setting, I am learning that there is a great need for leaders, not just nurse leaders to step up and take a stand to STOP workplace incivility and to STAND UP for Kindness. There is no excuse to allow verbally aggressive behaviors, rude tone or language, demeaning condescending manners shall not be tolerated anymore! People may think their behavior is okay, because no one has had the courage to tell the how their behaviors affect the majority. Kindness 101, good old respect and courtesy, please and thank yous and smiles, truly are the way to go!

    • Renee Thompson
      Renee Thompson
      Sep 12, 2018 Reply

      You are so right Elisa!! We all need to do our part to address and eliminate disruptive behaviors AND promote kindness, professionalism, and respect!

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