A few years ago, I started a new job at a busy marketing agency. This agency had a reputation for its fast pace productivity and high turnover. In my first week, I was assigned to a desk in the worst possible location. The first desk of the open office floor plan, nearest the front door. People buzzed by me all day long quickly on the way to their desks or somewhere similarly important. As each person passed I would say, “Good morning,” or “Hi,” or simply greet him or her with a smile. It was too harried an environment to speak to everyone for any length of time and no opportunity to learn everyone’s names.

After a week or so of this frenetic activity, I was feeling no closer to connecting to my new work environment. So, I went to the store and I bought a candy jar and I filled it with a variety of candy. The next day I came into work and placed the full candy jar conspicuously on my desk, facing outward. A curious thing began to happen! Instead of breezing by my desk, people began to stop. They would introduce themselves and chat as the opened the lid to the candy jar to take a sweet.

Within the span of two short days, I had met every single employee in the company. One afternoon, the vice-president stopped to chat…and have a piece of candy. He thanked me for the candy. I told him that I had brought the candy jar as a way to meet my co-workers and start making connections. He said, “Brilliant!” I replied, “Well, yes and no. Yes, it is brilliant because it gives me the opportunity to meet more of my coworkers. No, because just today I have met four ‘Brians.’” He said, “We don’t HAVE four ‘Brians.”” I said, “I know! That is the downside to meeting everyone so quickly! It is hard to remember everyone’s name. So, I now think we have four ‘Brians!’”

I am at a new company now. I brought the candy jar with me. I no longer need it meet people and make connections. I tell new employees during New Hire Training sessions that there is candy on my desk and they don’t even need to talk to me to take candy. What has changed?

I realized that I enjoy providing my teammates with a treat. When work is especially stressful, I run down to the store and I buy more candy. My coworkers will approach my desk with such exasperated relief that there is candy in the jar. (We all know there are those days that we just NEED chocolate.) They seem to think I am providing chocolate for them. But I have discovered, providing sweets for my coworkers makes me happy. It is I who benefits the most from the sweet treats in the jar.

What is it you do each day that provides you with that small, secret sense of happiness? Are you a compliment-er? Do you take on additional work to lighten the load of your coworkers? Do you clean the office kitchen when no one is looking? What is your “candy jar?”

Happiness in a Candy Jar
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