Throw a tiny pebble into a pond and you'll soon seen larger and larger ripples expanding far beyond the original point of impact. The same thing happens within organizations with small acts of kindness, heart-warming new research reveals.
A small sprinkle of kindness pays off big time.
To prove this happy truth a team of psychologists recruited workers from a Coca Cola plant in Madrid, Spain into what they thought was a happiness study. The volunteers were told to note down their moods and any acts of generosity they performed daily.
But the clever researchers had a trick up their sleeve. Among the participants they sprinkled a group of 19 secret confederates who had been instructed by the scientists to perform extra little acts of kindness for half of the group. The other half of the workers, who acted as a control group, weren't showered with special thank you notes or unexpected drink runs by these pre-selected "givers."
After a month what differences appeared between the group that was dosed with a few extra acts of kindness and those who went about their day as usual?
"The acts of kindness don't go unnoticed. The receivers observed more prosocial behaviors in the office and by the end of the study, they were reporting ten times more prosocial behaviors than the controls. In addition, receivers' level of 'felt autonomy' - essentially how much they felt in control of their days at work - were higher than controls," reports the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog.
"One month after the study ended, the receivers were also enjoying significantly higher levels of happiness than controls," it adds.
Kicking off a virtuous cycle of kindness
In short, that means that small acts of kindness nudged so many workers to "pay it forward" that the number of kind acts among the workers increased tenfold. And it wasn't just that each receiver reciprocated specifically to the giver who performed a thoughtful act for them (i.e. you brought me Starbucks yesterday so I'll make you a cup of tea this morning). Receivers were kind not only to those who had originally been nice to them, but to other people around them as well.
That's one mighty ripple. No wonder happiness and feelings of control leapt up.
And what's more, a little extra thoughtfulness was great for the givers too. Those selected by the researchers to secretly kick off this epidemic of giving also saw their happiness, sense of control, and even feelings of competency increase too. In fact their reported happiness levels jumped even more than those on the receiving end of their kindness.
You probably don't need any more reason than basic human decency to find as many opportunities to be kind as possible, but just in case that impulse needed reinforcing (it can be a pretty harsh world out there, after all), this study has got you covered.
You can now be sure your little acts of kindness are actually having a pretty huge impact on those around you. Thanks, science!