Let us get this out of the way right now: You do not have to bake cupcakes. You do not have to run the office birthday calendar, volunteer to organize happy hour, or consistently pick up the slack for the same mysteriously absent coworker. Being too nice at work comes with a whole host of (extremely well-documented) pitfalls, especially if you happen to be female — this isn't about that.
This is about the fact that working in an office means working in relatively close quarters with a bunch of stressed-out people thrown together by circumstance, and that experience is generally more pleasant when people attempt to demonstrate some appreciation for the basic humanity of their fellow workers. Which you do already, obviously! We are all just doing the best we can in this life.
But since it is usually possible to be better at most things, here are six small things we could all be doing to be just a little bit kinder to the people who work with us, vent with us, and may someday endorse us on LinkedIn.
1. Invite people to grab lunch sometimes.
You don't have to do this every day, or even often. But occasionally, it's worth asking a colleague or three if they're up for an overpriced salad run. This is especially true if they are new to the office. It is hard being new. New people probably don't even know the best overpriced salad options yet.
Does your department have interns? Invite them along, too. Interns are also people, and if there is one thing people love, it is an excuse to leave the office.
2. Ask people about what is going in their lives (and make some effort to remember the answers).
This is simple, and yet it goes so far. If your coworker mentions she is going on a vacation to Belgium, by all means ask her how Belgium was when she returns. If you ask your colleague what they're up to this weekend, and they tell you they are going apple picking, then on Monday, ask them how the apples were. People are surprisingly shocked when you do this, but it is an absurdly easy way to make other people feel listened to and important.
3. Send links.
Did you see a Times article that is directly related to your coworker's latest project? Send it to them. Alternatively, did you read something about Kate Middleton, which made you think of your officemate, who is obsessed with Kate Middleton? Send it to them. Here is what you say: "Hey, did you see this?" Done! (Please send me links about Kate Middleton.)
4. Restock things that are empty.
This is less fun because no one will ever thank you for it, but everyone will be profoundly grateful for your unsung act of heroism, even if they don't know it. When the printer is out of paper, put more paper in it. In every office I have ever worked in, reams and reams of paper have been right there, and yet the printer was always empty. Don't be part of the problem; be part of the solution.
5. Make introductions liberally.
Connecting two people who should definitely know each other is both generous and very easy. If you work with someone who you think would benefit from knowing someone you know, take the reigns and introduce them. (After checking with both parties first, to make sure they're both on board with this plan.) A quick "X, meet Y" email to both people does the trick. Then, you can excuse yourself from the thread and let nature take its course.
6. Notice when people are good at things, and tell them.
These are also known as "compliments." When a coworker does something extremely well, tell them so. Their presentation was hilarious. Their idea was brilliant. You were amazed how calm and collected they were in that hellish meeting. Whatever. The point is, you noticed, and you were genuinely impressed/awed/a little bit jealous. Let them know.
How do you show your coworkers you care? Share with us in the comments.