We don’t typically associate kindness with success in the workplace. Ambition, competence, commitment and reliability are highly prized workplace attributes, but when was the last time you heard someone talk about kindness at work?
There are many studies that prove kindness is as beneficial to the giver as the receiver but we usually apply the concept of kindness to our personal lives. What about kindness at work?
Organziations have become responsive to extreme forms of toxic behaviour such as sexual harassment, bullying, and discrimination. But how do they deal with the more subtle forms of hurtful behaviour that undermine and sabotage morale and culture?
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” ― Dalai Lama XIV
A dictionary definition of kindness is ‘the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.’ According to Inspire Kindness, whose mission is to inspire the world’s largest kindness movement, the definition is much broader. Kindness can encompass empathy, compassion, courtesy, patience, respect, understanding, and many other elements.
So why does kindness at work matter, and how do we foster it?
Gallup's State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report found that workers in the U.S. and Canada reported the highest rate of daily stress in the world during 2020 at 57% (compared to Western Europe at about 40%). Stress in the workplace has a mental and emotional impact on employees and … high levels of burnout and lower productivity.
Employee engagement decreased globally from 22% in 2019 to 20% in 2020 (that means only 20% of employees are fully engaged!).
“Kindness combats disengagement and stress, both of which correlate to bottom line factors such as productivity levels, sick days and staff turnover,” says Stacy Cowan, founder of Urban Legal Recruitment.
According to a study by the Association of Professional Executives of the Public Service of Canada (APEX), incivility “has profound implications on the level of energy, emotional engagement, and performance of work teams.” The study also found that teams in a respectful environment:
Kindness isn’t just about the recipient. Performing an act of kindness has a proven chemical effect on your body. Serotonin and oxytocin are released, reducing anxiety, increasing optimism and lowering blood pressure. Serene, optimistic, healthy employees contribute to a more positive, productive and, ultimately successful, organization.
Most of us have witnessed (or maybe participated in?) unkind acts in the workplace such as gossip, inappropriate jokes, people being excluded, and harassment. These acts not only have an impact on workplace culture, it can be devastating to those being targeted.
“Kindness is the antidote to toxic behaviour in the workplace,” according to Shona Tischner. “It not only makes an organization more successful, it’s just the right thing to do.
So how can we, as individuals, foster kindness in our workplaces?
Simple actions like saying good morning and taking the time to get to know your coworkers signal you care. Notice and acknowledge their successes, celebrate milestones like birthdays, marriages, or the birth/adoption of a child, and show empathy for their losses.
Take responsibility and say sorry when warranted. Don’t take credit for other people’s work. Assume best intent until proven otherwise. Be emotionally intelligent.
As leaders, encourage (and actively, visibly support) self-care, ensure reasonable working hours, create opportunities for colleagues to bond, model inclusivity and compassion, and openly recognize and reward good work.
“Kindness is a way of being and a choice,” says Stacy. “We all have free will, which means we get to choose how we want to show up in this world every minute of every day. Beyond its powerful effects benefiting others (and our organizations), kindness feels good and lights you up from the inside out. It's as simple as that.”
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At Urban Legal Recruitment, we have experienced, along with our clients, the impacts of COVID-19. We’ve made the necessary adjustments to ensure the safety of our team members and our clients.