“A good company is one whose mission is to improve the lives of everyone in its footprint: employees, suppliers, customers, supporting communities, and the planet.” -Tim Sanders, Saving the World at Work: What Companies and Individuals Can Do to Go Beyond Making a Profit to Making a Difference
Whether the company you work for strives to “improve the lives of everyone in its footprint” or not, you have the ability to make a difference in the workplace each and every day.
Here are five tips for making a difference in the workplace an attainable goal:
1. Give back to your community
Taking the lead on a volunteer effort can have the dual benefit of improving your local community while also making you feel good about yourself. Make a Difference Day provides an easy way to plug into a volunteer activity. Just use the website to find a local project, sign-up, gather a team of co-workers, and show up! Another option is to create a team for a 5K run or walk for a cause that is close to your heart or important to your local community. An advantage to these events is that the training period leading up to the race or walk creates an opportunity to develop a deeper level of camaraderie among co-workers.
2. Put a smile on your face
You’ve likely heard that it takes more muscles to frown than smile. And while that may or may not be true, there are a number of proven benefits to smiling: studies suggest that smiling can decrease your stress and anxiety levels, while also strengthening your immune system and making you appear more approachable (a win for those of you who work in a collaborative environment). What’s more, smiling is contagious, with research showing that our brains unconsciously cause us to mimic other people’s smiles when we see them. So, make an effort to smile and set off a ripple effect of happiness in your workplace!
3. Practice gratitude
While you’re smiling, get in the habit of showing gratitude to your colleagues. Thanking others is a small act that can make a big impact. Recent research shows that Americans “are less likely to feel or express gratitude at work than anyplace else.” And yet, that same research showed that “hearing ‘thank you’ at work made them feel good and motivated.” So, make a co-worker feel good and thank her for her efforts – she likely will be more inclined to help you, and others, in the future.
4. Become a mentor
If your organization has a formal mentor program, get involved in it. If it doesn’t, contact your human resources department to inquire about starting one, or create an informal one of your own. If you’re an experienced employee, invite a newer co-worker to lunch to discuss his career, and share your insights and perspectives on both the industry and your organization. Then, discuss how the mentor relationship could evolve to be effective for both of you.
5. Shine a light on your strengths
No, we’re not talking about bragging here. Rather, if you have a skill or talent that could benefit your organization, let it be known (even if it is outside the parameters of your job description). It might be as simple as sharing your Excel hacks, or as involved as educating others on another country’s business customs but whatever it is, don’t keep it to yourself. Cultivate a winning environment of collaboration by sharing your talents and inviting others to share as well.
Incorporating these simple actions throughout your workday could have a substantial positive effect on your co-workers, your organization, and the world around you. Why not choose one tip to act on today and see where it leads? You may be surprised what a difference you can make in the workplace.
Do you have suggestions for how to make a difference at work? Share your additional ideas in the comments.