Looking Outward: 5 Easy Ways to Cultivate a Prosocial Culture

by May 5, 2022

What makes us happy? 

This simple question breeds much debate, as we often pursue more money, new technology, and other material comforts…thinking they will bring us joy. Yet, KFF released that nearly 1/3 of American adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in February 2022.

Clearly, what we think will make us happy does not often do the trick. On the contrary, countless studies have shown that the “boost” from a single act of service outweighs the joy we feel from material gains. These studies make it apparent how innately “prosocial” humans are – a term that scientists coined, as they discovered the positive effects of outward thinking. In fact, a growing body of evidence suggests that the single greatest driver of well-being is understanding how your daily efforts enhance the lives of others. 

Given that the average American spends 1/3 of life at work, cultivating prosocial work environments becomes synonymous with a healthy culture. 

But you may ask – how do we do this? 

The answer is surprisingly simple! Contributions to others typically start small…and it comes down to our basic daily interactions. So, here are 5 easy ways to improve our daily interactions: 

1) Assume positive intent. People generally mean well…and are often misunderstood. Assuming positive intent will  minimize miscommunication and help everyone operate from a more positive lens.  

2) Smile at your coworkers. According to Women’s Health Magazine, “A smile of a mere four-thousandths of a second is enough to produce a mini emotional high in others…boring material becomes more interesting…some foods even taste better when preceded by a subliminal smile.”

3) Be inclusive. Social exclusion activates the same two regions of the brain as physical suffering…inclusion matters. 

4) Tell someone how they’ve contributed to your life. One of our deepest needs is to feel appreciated. 

5) Make eye contact in passing and call people by name. Both of these are proven to make someone feel significantly more connected throughout the day. 

People who have great interactions throughout the day are five times as likely to have a very high sense of well-being. Consciously making these simple contributions will foster a culture that improves well being at work and beyond. Unsure if your culture cultivates positive interactions? Conduct a climate assessment to find out! 

And while you’re asking employees about their work experience, remember to ask yourself…”how will my interactions enhance the lives of others today?”


Sabrina & the Civility Partners Team

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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