Illustrated Blog


Drawing of a hand holding out a balloon

Your kindness matters more than you know

That act of kindness you think is insignificant likely does more good than you know. We tend to think that expressing empathy to the receptionist whose arm is in a cast, for example, is frivolous. We expect him to enjoy our nicety mildly and momentarily, but nothing more to result from it. Researchers from the University of Chicago and University of Texas at Austin, however, uncovered that the positive impact of our acts of kindness are typically greater than we think. Their new study suggests that the receptionist likely considers our interest and empathy a palpable contribution to his wellbeing and correctly so.  In fact, research shows that small acts of kindness can  improve the receptionist’s life in several concrete ways: Health. Another study found that when doctors empathized with patients

For your one wish, shall I... a) Double your income OR b) Halve your cynicism?

The hidden costs of cynicism

“If they can get away with it, every employee will act unethically to benefit themselves,” said Zach, a member of a team I advise. In response, his four colleagues at the table rebutted him eloquently. They told compelling stories of benevolence that made all present teary-eyed. It took the rest of the lunch hour, but they eventually cracked his cynicism. The discussion ended with him saying, “Fine. Maybe most people, most of the time aren’t self-centered pigs.” Zach’s colleagues gave him a gift more valuable than a check made out in the amount of his annual income: A non-cynical mindset. This finding is from a survey data from 125,000 people across 121 countries, as presented in the World Happiness Report 2021. The survey asked how likely respondents thought it was that

Cartoon image of several people talking

How to facilitate a meeting of diverse participants

Jerry ran a work meeting to generate possible solutions to a challenge his organization was facing. Yet, his gathering of highly qualified individuals produced no promising ideas. The two racial minorities did not speak. Neither did the sole under-30 team participant — unless you consider her surly expression a statement. The four white males and the one over-40 white female lectured the group on their views but no one built or commented on what they heard. In sum, the meeting oscillated between awkward silence and self-aggrandizing soliloquies. If you’re one of the many people who’s been in a meeting as unproductive as Jerry’s or want to avoid ever being in one, keep reading! When people don’t feel respected, valued or emotionally safe, they often clam up. This reaction is an

A hand pushing a heart

In defense of heavy-handed goodness

Carl, a newly-appointed regional director at a fintech company, learns that his region hires shockingly few women. In response, he works with the human resources department (HR) to establish a target for the percentage of new hires who are women. Over the next few months, however, the gender balance in hiring does not improve. Carl asks recruiters what they need to achieve the target. They request — and promptly receive — a larger budget and specialized diversity training and consultants. Several months later, there’s only minuscule progress toward the target. Carl talks again with his recruiters and provides more support. Still, the percentage of new hires who are women remains atrociously low. Finally, Carl tells his recruitment team, “I’m instituting a moratorium on male hires. We’re hiring only women for the foreseeable future. Figure it out.” Carl is trying to promote workplace gender equity. He is job purposing, defined as making a meaningful work-based contribution to others or a societal cause (Do Good at Work, chapter 4). Therefore, he will likely reap the benefits of job purposing, including greater professional success and personal wellbeing (Do Good at Work,


A lesson from Atlas on facing long odds

I recently took a walk in greater Indianapolis, where I had traveled to give a keynote. Block after block, I brooded over a question: “Why keep trying when success is unlikely?” You may know that much of my work is guiding corporate executives toward operating in a manner that serves their business and society. I agree with journalist Thomas Friedman that, in the United States at least, business is “our last best hope” – for American democracy, the natural world and our semi-functioning society. Yet, despite my efforts and those of thousands of competent and diligent colleagues, American businesses don’t appear to be on track to save much of anything. Meanwhile, time is running out. There will soon be nothing left to save. These were my dark thoughts as I shuffled across

menacing image of a tank

Ways our workweek can support Ukrainians

Ukrainians are putting stickers specifying blood type on their children and signs saying “Get out of my home” in Russian on their doors. They’re being bombed. They’re fleeing senseless violence on foot. Some have lost their lives. With news like this, it’s hard to do business as usual. We want our workday to counter these injustices. But how? Following are several options. Reach out via email or social media to Ukrainian employees, clients, suppliers and other business contacts to ask how you can help. Because their countries also face the threat of war and are already managing a refugee crisis, you might want to add Poles, Moldovans, Hungarians, Romanians and Slovakians to the list of business contacts to reach out to. Invite team members to attend an anti-war protest with you.

Dear employers, We a care about more than oursleves. We aspire to more than a bonus. We stand for more than the status quo. We dream of more justice for all.

Today’s definition of a good job takes “good” to a new frontier

In recent years, thousands of Amazon workers have signed a letter making demands of their employer, hundreds of Wayfair employees have walked out in protest and 5% of Coinbase employees have quit due to unacceptable employment terms. Were these workers demanding higher pay? Work-from-home flexibility? Health care benefits? None of the above. The signatories demanded that Amazon improve its environmental sustainability. The walkers urged Wayfair to stop selling furniture to U.S. migrant detention camps. The Coinbase team members found it unacceptable that their employer didn’t publicly support Black Lives Matter. These workers were risking – or altogether forgoing – their jobs for employer actions they would not directly benefit from. They were demanding corporate practices supportive of societal causes, what is known as CSR (corporate social responsibility), ESG (environment social


A surprising antidote to despair

Several people have told me that they’re convinced we’re descending into a dog-eat-dog society, a calloused culture, an uncaring world. Although I feel the same way at times, I don’t think the evidence paints a bleak future. Yes, some airplane passengers are violent. Yes, anti-Asian hate crime is up. Yes, corporate greed is too common and living wages aren’t common enough. Yes, democracy is teetering in some countries. However, to characterize the world as the sum of its troubles is akin to seeing only one team in a tug of war. The set of problems we face are countered by a set of attempted solutions. The solution side of the tug-of-war benefits from nonprofits and government, of course. But most of us are unaware that, increasingly, businesses are also trying