15 Ways to Be Nice at Work

by Jennifer Miller on February 24, 2012

in Workplace Issues

This week is Be Nice Week at my kids’ school. It’s part of an anti-bullying program designed to “promote the old-fashioned value of being nice”. Today the students and teachers  will wear “Be Nice” t-shirts offered by the The Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan. I bought a t-shirt too and will be wearing it today at work. Yep, even during my client meetings.


 It should prompt some interesting discussion.

Which is exactly the point.

If we don’t shine the light on this important value, then it will soon move from “old-fashioned” to “obsolete”.  That’s not acceptable. We must have civility in our communities, our schools and, yes, our workplaces in order to thrive. It’s what makes us human.

Speaking of humanity, research shows that human behavior is contagious. So I’m declaring this Be Nice Day for the office. If enough people join in, we’ll achieve critical mass.

Who’s with me?

Here are 15 ideas to get you started:

  1. Hold the door open for somebody struggling  with an armload of stuff. You’ll have to look up from your smartphone to actually see this need.
  2. Share something you know with somebody else: show a colleague a shortcut for Excel/Email/your company accounting system, etc.
  3. Smile at a stranger.
  4. Tell somebody you appreciate their hard work.
  5. Keep the snarky comebacks to yourself.
  6. Pick up a piece of trash in the hallway.
  7. Be overheard saying something nice about somebody else.
  8. Pay for the soda of the person in line behind you at the company cafeteria.
  9. Say “thank you.” Then find somebody else and say it again.
  10. Hold somebody accountable. Yes, this is a form of kindness.
  11. End a meeting early.
  12. Pick up the office mail for your team and distribute it.
  13. Make a fresh pot of coffee.
  14. Reload the paper in the copier.
  15. Introduce yourself to somebody new.

What will you do today to Be Nice?

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Henry February 24, 2012 at 10:25 am

I can think of at least two more.

1) Ask someone how they’re doing and then listen to what they say. This morning I found out that a co-worker’s car got broken into yesterday.

2) Remember to follow up and ask how things worked out. I’ll make a point to ask that person next week if their insurance helped them get things in their car replaced.

Most of us just want to be known. Paying attention to and appreciating other people is core. Take time to appreciate people.


Jennifer Miller February 24, 2012 at 11:21 am


I know from personal experience that you excel at demonstrating appreciation for your colleagues.

Thanks for always extending an encouraging word, wrapped in a wonderfully humorous quip!

Deb Costello February 24, 2012 at 12:47 pm

I love this of course! I deal with teenagers, an agegroup not always known for being nice to each other. So I am all for finding ways to be nice. In the end, I find the best route to kindness is a conscious decision to “see” someone. When I actually take the time to look at people, I can see how they are smiling beautifully and mention how nice it is to see this or notice that they look worried and follow Mike’s advice and ask some questions.

Kindness as mindfulness. Thank you for this terrific reminder.

Jennifer Miller February 24, 2012 at 1:48 pm


Thanks for stopping by The People Equation. Your point about “nose to the grindstone” is well taken. So many times, we don’t mean to be “mean”, but rather get caught up in the tyranny of the urgent.

I confess to being one of those “get it done” types– so wearing a Be Nice t-shirt is good medicine for me too 🙂

Jennifer Miller February 24, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Hi, Deb!

Sadly, the meanness isn’t just for teens. I’m aware of mean behaviors even as young as age 8. It breaks my heart.

I know that you have often write about making an intentional choice– and that’s what my Be Nice t-shirt is about. I’m choosing to Be Nice. We all need a reminder once in awhile.

Terri Spaulding May 16, 2012 at 10:39 am

I wear a be nice. button on my winter coat, had a car magnet (until it fell off) and proudly wear their wrist band. It gets a lot of people commenting and thinking, especially in line at the grocery store. I wish to figure out a really great way to spread this message to companies who allow workplaces bullies to rule. After having been part of a place with a culture like that, I never want to have anyone else suffer through it, but I realize it doesn’t stop it from existing.

Let’s develop a way to get those at the top to stop allowing bullies to rule. What can we do to get out his message???

Jennifer Miller May 16, 2012 at 10:47 am


I love your “Let’s Do It!” attitude. When we meet next week, we can put our heads together. I think another great resource is the Mental Health Foundation of W. Michigan referenced in my blog post.

The Foundation did a follow-up Be Nice event last week and coordinated a helicopter fly-over of six area school yards where the entire school population spelled out “Be Nice” on a field. VERY cool. See the media coverage here: http://www.woodtv.com/dpp/news/local/grand_rapids/w-mich-students-unite-to-be-nice

Terri Spaulding May 16, 2012 at 10:54 am

Yes I am aware. 🙂 I actually was able to be a facilitator once at a be nice. school event int the FHC district. I have had several conversations with Christy from MHF-WM about how I might become involved, but so far we have not come to a conclusion on how that help translates.

I am especially interested in the workplace be nice. program and the LLL programs at the high school. And I just recently watched the fly over coordinated event video! Thanks for pointing that out to me.

Denise Blair November 4, 2013 at 10:42 am

Thanks for the post, Jennifer! I have been reading, ‘The Cost of Bad Behavior-How Incivility Is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It’, and this ties in nicely with the book. The authors, Christine Pearson and Christine Porath, have really investigated the costs of incivility at work which include decreased work effort (48%), decreased time at work (47%)and work quality (38%), 80% lost work time worrying about the incident , 78% said their commitment to the organization declined. Well, you get the picture. So, it PAYS to be nice/civil!

Jennifer Miller November 4, 2013 at 3:36 pm


What a positive outlook – and you are right, there really is no downside to being nice . . .except, I suppose, if you allow yourself to be taken advantage of. That’s another blog post, though . . .

Jennifer Miller November 4, 2013 at 3:36 pm


Sounds like an interesting book; I’ll have to check it out.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: