Being Kind is another way to go beyond the ordinary in business, at work and in our everyday relationships with others. This article is another in the series The Inspirational Workplace. If you wish to explore further background articles drawn from the web than click on Link + Number identified throughout this article.
What is it about kindness that has so many perplexed regarding how it is expressed in the workplace? Kindness is a simple act that doesn’t take much skill – we can just do it. Yet, we can get sloppy about how we practice it, for instance we often: forget to hold a door open for another, smile, say a thank you, pick up something off the floor, leave the washroom or common work room untidy, or forget to put our hand over our mouth when we cough. All simple acts of unkindness that are noticed but go unchecked.
There is also a more darker side of unkindness which brews inside our world of work, that of bullying and harassment - those repeated acts that are intended to intimidate, offend, isolate, pester, belittle, degrade or humiliate a person or a group of people. Such acts can cause increased absenteeism, turnover, costs, accidents and stress; and at the same time reduce productivity, motivation, morale, and customer service. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help when we have a leader in the US White House who is prone to belittling, degrading and humiliating people and groups of people. He is not a role model for those who are trying to develop a positive culture for the workplace. (Link 1 Link 2 )
We can find a solution to both the simple acts of unkindness and the more darker side of unkindness. Let’s start with the premise that there is good in all of us, and if we focus our attention on simple acts of kindness then the more darker side of unkindness won’t be tolerated by us or by others in the workplace.
Kindness plays on our emotions
There is considerable research that shows acts of kindness result in reduced stress, anxiety and depression, while it helps others become calm, relaxed, happier and healthier. Simple and consistent acts of kindness set off a host of bodily chemical reactions. They stimulate the production of serotonin (the chemical that heals our wounds, calms us down, and makes us happy); It releases endorphin (the brain’s natural painkiller); cortisol (the stress hormone); and, oxytocin (lowers blood pressure).(Link 3 ; Link 4 )
Kindness and the bottom line
There is also considerable research that shows acts of kindness improve both the bottom line and workplace morale.
Simply put, kindness leads to happiness, and happiness in the workplace improves productivity. Economists have carried out several experiments to test the idea that employees who are happy, work harder. In the laboratory, they found happiness made people about 12% more productive. (Link 5) Those companies that have built their brand on kindness, have also achieved high levels of success both from a financial and a work culture perspective. (Link 6)
Kindness is more than just a business trend. For a growing number of companies, it is a fundamental strategy that benefits the customer, everyone in the organization and the financial condition of the company. (Link 7)
One would think that with all the positive qualities of kindness, we would just naturally act with kindness. In fairness, we do. However, we can do better.
Kindness Starts with Us
It’s up to each of us to take ownership for kindly acts no matter what role we play within an organization. Basically, this reverses the behaviours identified in the first paragraphs of this article. It’s about being considerate of others in such a way that we offer a helping hand whenever needed; or, whenever we see something out of place we make it right.
Once we get it right with ourselves we can begin spreading kindness to others. It is not uncommon that when one shows kindness to another, the other begins to add kindness to his or her behaviour.
A simple act of kindness becomes a springboard for others to act. If you have ever been around someone who is genuinely kind, you know the person causes you to take note and reflect on your own kindness behaviour. Why is that? Because the act makes us feel good, appreciated, and yes loved. And, we find, it doesn’t take much to pass on the act. It’s all about the golden rule of treating others as you want to be treated. A bit of kindness soon transforms into big bundles of kindness. At its core, kindness is showing appreciation for the other and in turn feeling good about it.
Develop A Culture of Kindness
For kindness to become a brand for an organization, it must become ingrained within the psyche of that organization. A positive organizational culture begins with positive values promoted and nurtured by the owners and leader/manager team. When kindness is promoted as a purposeful act and isn’t considered as a “warm and fuzzy” experience, it becomes a genuine dynamic that brings people together in a positive way, improves customer relations, and has real financial returns.
One of the factors leading to a breakdown in organizational culture occurs when a value has been clearly stated but leader/managers fail to apply consequences when it is contravened. So once a value like kindness is contravened with no consequence, people begin to feel that the value has little importance and gives them permission to disregard it. Scepticism and cynicism follow. On the flip side, an organizational culture is positively strengthened when people are encouraged and commended for living the value.
Along with the promotion and practice of the “kindness value”, is hiring people who validate kindness in their own lives. However, just by hiring people who view kindness as a value doesn’t cut it of itself. Value driven leadership is required.
A culture of kindness doesn’t start by accident. It can be started by anyone, but it must be cultivated and strengthened through personal actions of the leadership team. Together, individually and collectively, they bring the organization to understand kindness as a core value. (Link 8 Link 9 )
Organizations that value kindness find that it becomes contagious. As internal kindness takes hold, people begin to outreach to the wider community in a way that adds worth to that community. An old saying goes something like this: “how people treat those less fortunate in their community is indicative of the strength of the community.”
It is not hard to find companies and organizations heeding the call for help. Think about those companies who free up volunteer time for their employees, promote drives for food banks, support shelters for the homeless, contribute to Habitat for Humanity, and provide marathons in support of health research. These acts, and much more, are common acts of kindness that build up a wholesome community. But foundational to all of them is the value of kindness promoted and supported by the leadership, management team, or owner of businesses; and by extension all those within the organization who make it happen.
Become a spark
Each of us in the workplace can become a spark for kindness. We just need to start. A spark of kindness can grow into a raging fire of kindness. Acts of kindness can become contagious and they will gradually be recognized as a value both inside and outside the organization. It will become the raging fire it is meant to be when the leadership team models the behaviour, and everyone makes it part of the corporate DNA. It all starts with a spark and you can be that spark.
"A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves." -- Amelia Earhart
Author: Richard Fontanie MSW, FCMC
Note: Another good article on kindness found on the globeandmail.com and the following books are good reads .