Fulfilled employees are happy employees.

You have a good job, right? You’re doing what you went to college to study, the company benefits are decent, you get along with your boss, and you like most of your co-workers. Yet you still dread going to work every day. You feel like something is missing. Why is that?

Before we go any further, take a minute to celebrate. Not everyone has a job these days…

Now. How long has it been since you did something nice for someone?

According to author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek, being nice to others may be the key to feeling more fulfilled at work. 

When people work purely because they have to, they slowly die on the vine. They’re unmotivated and unhappy. There’s no intrinsic value for them in each day’s activities, so they feel uninspired. Even the best job in the world may still leave you feeling unfulfilled in some way that’s hard to put a finger on. It leaves an empty feeling in your gut. 

Spending every day in an unfulfilling job takes a toll not only on you but on those around you. According to Sinek, the children of parents who come home every night complaining about how much they hate their job are more likely to be bullies when they grow up. And nearly everyone who feels unfulfilled at work understands the toll that situation can take on significant relationships at home.

So what leads to this unfulfilling feeling?

Sinek says it starts with not feeling cared for. Employees who work in an office where budgets get cut, people are passed over for well-deserved promotions, co-workers talk smack at the water cooler, and management is only concerned with revenues may feel as if they’ve been left high and dry. Employees who are told to do more with less are demoralized, which has the opposite effect. Rather than being encouraged to do the best they can with what they have, managers expect more work, more time, and more revenue, which uses people up until there’s nothing left.

So, back to doing nice things for people. Sinek says that in the studies he’s read, people who do kind things for others inspire others to do kind things. It doesn’t have to be big. You could simply hold the door open for someone or pick up the pen they just dropped and hand it back to them. Even small offerings such as these have big reverberations. Being the recipient of a kind act makes one want to do the same for someone else. And that’s how it starts. A small act of kindness for a co-worker leads to other small acts of kindness throughout the office.

These kindnesses make people feel cared for. They help build trust among team members, which leads to higher self-confidence. Employees with high self-confidence are more likely to ask for help when they need it. And when co-workers offer their help, it sets the whole thing in motion for another round.

Managers who want to build a strong team of loyal, happy people would do well to start by doing whatever they can to make people feel cared for. A team lunch or coffee break is a good place to start. Celebrate what employees have and can do; don’t spend time criticizing what they don’t have or can’t do. Make sure people understand their value to the team, and they’ll step up to become even more.

Fulfillment comes from the exertion of time and energy for someone else, says Sinek. That’s what sets the cycle in motion. That’s what gets others to start doing little things for the people they meet each day.

A job that leaves you feeling fulfilled every day is a job that doesn’t feel like work. What little thing can you do for someone today?


To hear Simon Sinek’s talk called Love Your Work given for the Creative Mornings community in New York City, click here.