According to research, we become a happier when good things happen to us (duh!) but the effect is even bigger when good things happen to us unexpectedly:
Emory University and Baylor College of Medicine researchers used Magnetic Resonance Imaging brain scans to measure changes in human brain activity in response to a sequence of pleasurable stimuli.
They used a computer-controlled device to squirt fruit juice or water into the mouths of 25 research participants. The patterns of the squirting were either predictable or unpredictable.
The researchers found that the MRI scans showed a brain area called the nucleus accumbens to be much more active when the subjects received unpredictable patterns of juice and water.
- Something nice happens that you expect = good
- Something nice happens unexpectedly = even better
This is interesting in the context of happiness at work because many of the things companies do to make their employees happier are utterly predictable: Summer parties, Christmas parties, Bonuses, team events, and so on happen on an almost completely fixed schedule, which serves to diminish their effectiveness.
This is why we advocate also doing random acts of workplace kindness. According to this research, a small well-meant surprising gesture towards an employee or a team may make them much happier.
So what could you do, to surprise a co-worker today? Here are some examples from previous blog posts:
- A really nice, surprising reward for a star performer.
- Give you co-workers a morning surprise.
- Random acts of kindness at work.
Has anyone ever done something that surprised and delighted you at work? Or have you done something like that to you co-workers?