09/11/2014 08:36 am ET Updated Nov 11, 2014

Basic Kindness

As a long-time director of human resources and a corporate trainer, I have had the opportunity to work with many people in many different work environments. I am obsessed with studying corporate culture and learning about what makes the workforce of an organization "tick."

One of the most popular training programs I provide is on incivility and workplace harassment. As I was developing this training program I conducted an informal poll in which I asked people this question:

"What is the No. 1 reason why you are not nice to your coworkers?"

I was not prepared for the answer I got. The No. 1 one reason people gave for not being nice to their coworkers was:

"I don't have time."

I was so disheartened to hear this response. There are many reasons why the average worker feels "squeezed" in their jobs. Lack of resources, lack of leadership, competing priorities, financial constraints, and changes at the top can cause even the most professional worker to feel rattled. But to hear that people aren't nice to each other because of lack of time was astonishing to me.

Personally, I don't see where it takes any more time to smile than it does to frown, or where it takes more than a just a split second to say "thank you" to someone. Heck, you can even shorten that to "thanks" if you're really that time-strapped!

I am on a mission to bring back basic kindness; it's my quest in life! When I say "basic kindness" I really mean it. I'm talking about things like:

• Saying "please"
• Saying "thank you"
• Holding the door open for someone
• Smiling at someone
• Giving up your seat on the bus to an elderly person or pregnant lady
• Giving appropriate credit when credit is due
• Not cutting people off in traffic

These are not earth-shattering things, nor do they take up a lot of time, but they are the base for creating a life where kindness is a habit.

Life just keeps getting busier and busier for people. Between caring for our families, holding down a job, keeping up with household chores, looking after aging parents, and for some of us, attending school, there barely seems like there's any time to do anything.

For many people, something's got to give; but does that something have to be kindness? Why not unplug from your electronic devices for a bit? Really, no one cares what level you've reached in Candy Crush Saga! Why not stop wasting time watching reality TV? Why not stop gossiping about your coworkers in the hallway and instead, use that time to lift someone else, instead of tearing them down.

Kindness begets kindness, and the nicer you are to people, the nicer they will be to you. This isn't always the case -- there are still jerks out there in the world -- but you certainly improve your chances of being on the receiving end of kind behavior when you're kind to other people.

Whether you're dealing with your coworkers, family, neighbors, friends, or just the people you interact with out there during the course of your daily life, make it a point to be kind. The easiest way is to just smile at someone. Maybe they'll smile back, maybe they won't, but it doesn't matter. By smiling, you will have exhibited at least one act of basic kindness for the day.

Kindness begets kindness, and jerkiness begets jerkiness; choose wisely!