Grateful for a Positive Work Environment

Grateful for a Positive Work Environment

By: Richard O’Shea

"He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.” — From The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The Benjamin Franklin Effect is a cognitive bias that causes people to like someone more after they do that person a favor, especially if they previously disliked that person or felt neutral toward them. Most people want to appear competent at work, so there is the temptation to never ask for help and to pretend you know more than you really do. But, actually, asking for help may not only improve your work performance, it may help build a positive relationship with your coworkers.

I am fairly new to teaching at a university. I got my MA (TESOL) in 2019 and started as a full-time university teacher just as COVID was beginning. This put me in a strange position where I was given my office, my computer and a list of courses and university protocols to become familiar with. Five days later, we were told to work from home. This was a fairly stressful time for most people, and I was no different. I was trying to get up to speed with my new job, my wife had her maternity leave extended, my eldest daughter had the start of elementary school postponed and my second daughter was home from nursery school. We were all feeling confused and angry.

Although they couldn’t solve all of those problems, when I asked for help regarding my new classes or when I was having problems with university rules on copyright restrictions for class materials, my coworkers were incredibly helpful. 


All teachers at my university have recently been asked to come back to campus, although our classes are still online. Since we’ve been back on campus, the atmosphere has been great. I didn’t deliberately try to use the Benjamin Franklin effect to build good relationships at work, that actually seems very cynical to me, but I can imagine that my requests for help may have contributed to the positive atmosphere. However, I don’t think it has been caused by the Benjamin Franklin effect alone, I also think people are happy to get out of the house and see the same people every day. I hope this atmosphere continues; it feels great to feel happy going to work.

Don’t forget that helping others and being helped by others is not a burden. It is the gift that binds us together in a way only humans can do.

Richard O'Shea - English teacher based at Nihon University, School of Medicine

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