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Can Kindness Give Your Company A Productivity Boost?

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It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, a Darwinian-like survival of the fittest on today’s job front. You’ve always got to look out for Numero Uno, because no one else will, right?

What you might not realize is that small acts of politeness may serve a common purpose that works in your own personal interest.

A Pennsylvania State University study released earlier this month explores the relationship between altruism and motor control. The researchers studied video tape of people walking through a building's entrance to see happens when people hold the door open for each other. They learned that when one person holds the door open for someone else, he or she tends to keep holding it open for the person(s) who follow in quick succession. In return, the people on the receiving end of this kind gesture work with the door holder by picking up the pace.

Essentially, everyone involved works together to lower the overall amount of work that would be required if everyone had to open the door on his or her own. In the process, they create higher productivity and greater overall efficiency. So small acts of everyday etiquette pay off for everyone involved by creating small productivity gains that help everyone work better. If you work better, you’re more likely to keep your jobs, right?

Small acts of etiquette even work on workers you don’t work with, notes PSU psychology professor and researcher David A. Rosenbaum:
Rosenbaum sees the shared-effort model as enhancing, not detracting from, our appreciation of good manners: "Here are people who will probably never see each other again," he says, "but in this fleeting interaction, they reduce each others' effort. This small gesture is uplifting for society."

So you might just make someone else feel good, which in turn will help them feel happier on the job – at least enough to get a slight productivity boost out of it.

Start looking for small acts of kindness, whether it’s holding a door for someone, starting a new pot of coffee in the break room, or bringing your co-worker something from the front desk so he or she doesn’t have to get it. Your random acts of kindness might just pay off for everyone.

Now you might think, "Wait a second, a group of researchers spent hours analyzing videotape of people walking through a doorway?" but there’s a final takeaway here: If you’re not holding the door open for the person behind you -- especially if the person is pushing a stroller or carrying something heavy -- stop being such a self-absorbed jerk and get the door, will you?


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