Nice Little Things You Can Do

Often I write about what to do if you are out of work and searching for it. Other times I write about what you can do to improve your chances of advancement. In both cases, the things you can do are designed specifically to move you ahead. Today however, I want to write about seemingly small gestures and things you can do that are not designed to move you ahead significantly, but are still nice to do nonetheless for their own sake.

For starters, saying ‘please’ when you ask someone to do something, and ‘thank you’ when someone does something for you seems almost too obvious to even note. However, if my own experience is any example, there are a great number of people who would be well advised to remember these two basic courtesies. Not only does their use brand you as someone with good manners, it demonstrates your appreciation for what others do in the case of the ‘thank you’ and your request instead of a demand in the case of the ‘please’.

If you work with the public, a smile and eye contact – both of which don’t require you to utter a word – are often all it takes to make someone feel acknowledged. Nothing is more dismissive to a customer or client than an employee who swiftly walks by with their head turned the other way or looking down at the floor in what is obviously an attempt to bypass them without having to interact with them.

Unless you are self-employed, there is a high probability that someone else cleans your desk, empties your garbage and recycling, vacuums your floor etc. If this person does a good job, you may never even think about them. Isn’t that worth a brief note left for them just saying, “Thanks for cleaning my space, I appreciate it?” And if they haven’t done a good job, leaving such a note might encourage them to do it better. Either way, it’s nice to let somebody working odd hours with minimal pay know they are appreciated.

You know much of the time I hear people that they don’t get enough recognition from their boss. I wonder the opposite however; how often have they themselves expressed to their own boss how much they appreciate them? What is it about your boss that you might recognize and appreciate. One way to get your boss to support you and act more the way you want is to reinforce that behaviour by praising it. So you help them and they might help you. But for once, maybe that shouldn’t be your prime motive.

On your way to work or during your break or lunch time, maybe you grab a coffee or tea from some entry-level fast-food establishment. What might it take out of your day to genuinely thank that person and perhaps – just perhaps mind you – tell them you appreciate their smile, their enthusiasm, or their quick service? If you don’t think you’ll be too comfortable doing this at a restaurant standing face-to-face, do it at a drive through after you’ve got your order, then you can dash off. You’ll feel good!

Are you required to leave a message on your answering machine each day? Does it sound like the exact same message, with the same flat tone, the same droning voice? How about having a little bit of fluctuating tone, a rising and falling pitch that sounds normal? Perhaps have a little fun with your Halloween message by pretending to be Igor and Dracula leaving the message for you in your absence. I did that today! Not only do people get a kick out of it, but if you regularly get annoyed people calling (thank goodness I don’t!) it’s hard to be overly annoyed if you’re laughing.

Whether you’re a man or a woman, holding the door open for someone behind you is still courteous and polite. And does it really slow you down on your busy important trip from point A to point B?

Put a smile on other people’s faces whenever you can. I see people in our reception area who are discouraged, frustrated, exhausted, numb and a host of other emotions. They are Social Assistance recipients waiting to talk to someone here. Even when I don’t know them and they aren’t here to see me, I stop often and look right at someone and say, “Where’s that smile?” Then I grin and they can’t help but grin back and then it breaks into a laugh. Then I say, “There it is! I knew it was in there somewhere!” and I walk on. They may ask the Receptionist who I was when I exit, but their engaged, alert and smiling now.

You know there are so many little things you can do to be nice, and some will go noticed while others not so much. Wiping the sink of all the water drops in the washroom when you’re done may never be noticed and therefore remarked on, but it’s still a nice thing to do. Make your workplace a nice place to work by being the change you want to see. Start it yourself with intended acts of kindness!

Kelly Mitchell, BA

*First published at: and republished with author’s permission.

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  1. Kevin November 3, 2013
  2. Kelly Mitchell Kelly Mitchell November 3, 2013
  3. Mary T. Tanner November 5, 2013

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