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Archive Monthly Archives: December 2018

Helping a colleague

Law of reciprocation

The law of reciprocation is a strong social norm.  We pay someone a compliment, they feel an obligation to make one in return.  We give someone a small gift, they feel awkward about accepting it, and giving something in return helps them to accept.  We help someone out, they want to help us in return.

One of my favourite fables crops up now and again in the personal development genre, and I’m going to share it again here.  I can’t attribute it, because I don’t know where it originated, nor where I read it.

There was once a traveller, who came to a walled city.  At the entrance to the city, there stood an old man, greeting everyone who approached.  The traveller greeted the old man, and asked, 

‘What are the people like in this city?’  

The old man didn't answer right away and asked the traveller,

‘What are they like where you are from?’  

The traveller replied,

‘Oh, horrible!  Everyone is miserable, no-one has got time to help anyone, they are all selfish!’

The old man replied,

‘That is how you will find the people in this city too’.


The next day, another traveller approached and greeted the old man. He too asked,

‘What are the people like in this city?’  

Again the old man asked,

‘What are they like where you are from?’  

This traveller replied,

‘Oh, I’m from a very friendly place, everyone helps their neighbour, they are very kind to visitors, and always have a smile for everyone they meet.’  

The old man replied,

‘That is how you will find the people in this city too’.

This fable shows it’s not just tangible things we reciprocate, it applies just as much to how we act with people.  If there’s a habit in your workplace of not helping each other, not giving positive feedback, then you may find your behaviour falling in with the norms.  I once did this myself – I worked with a couple of people who were constantly complaining about not being appreciated by their managers, morale was low, that I eventually found myself joining in. This was a while ago, and although I recognised what was happening, I didn’t have the strategies to overcome it at the time.  And unfortunately, after I left, I was remembered as complaining too much – a former manager said the one thing I should work on was being more positive.

It takes someone to break the mould.  To do something good for someone.  Give positive feedback to a colleague, help them out if they need it, or just take a basket of fruit in now and again for everyone to share. Once one person does it, then someone else will reciprocate.  Before you know it more will join in, and the culture of the workplace will shift.

Be the one to instigate the change. It’s powerful.

If you want more tips like this, get the download, ‘Seven things you can do today to make work better’.

get a head start on new year resolutions

Get a head start on new year resolutions

What’s your new year’s resolution?

Ok, it’s a bit early to be asking that, but bear with me, I have my reasons.

I’ve made the same three resolutions, pretty much, for more years than I’d care to count.  Lose weight, be happy at work, and be more organised.

Any of these resonate with you?  I have a suggestion that might help with one, maybe even two of these.

I’m pleased to say that this year, I’ve lost 30lbs.  About 14 kilos.  I exercise regularly.  This is a big deal.  Previously, the only resolution I’ve actually kept was the one when I was about 13 years old, to not drop litter.

However, I’m not a dietician, personal trainer or fitness expert, so let’s put that one aside.  (Although I did learn some very useful things about motivation in the process.)

I work hard to be organised.  I do so well at this (sometimes) that people think of me as organised.  However, I know there’s so much more I’d like to be better at, hence the frequent resolution. 

But the key one, be happy at work.  That’s my key motivator.  My quest in life, the reason I’ve taken some big decisions about my own working life.  This is so important to me, I believe it is one of the fundamental rights.  If you ​believe that too, then I would love to help you make ​some  changes that can make it a reality for you.

I’m working on an exciting new programme to launch in the new year.  You can help me to develop this programme by telling me what you would most like help with in the new year, by completing this short survey.