Kindness at work


It’s World Kindness Day today. However, wouldn’t it be great if there was kindness every day, in all spheres of life?/!

In Harvard Business Review (Jan 02, 2018) Make Civility the Norm on Your Team,  Christine Porath says, “Unfortunately, my research shows that there is rampant incivility in most organizations. I found that 98% of the workers I surveyed over the past 20 years have experienced rude behavior and 99% have witnessed it.”

In my coaching practice, I work with clients on a variety of issues – improving leadership skills, building assertiveness, improving communication and interpersonal skills, or preparing for a new role. Regardless of the presenting issue, time and time again, kindness or the absence there of, comes up: difficult people, incivility, toxic bosses or colleagues, even harassment and bullying.

High performing organisations and their savvy leaders know that a healthy, engaged and supportive work environment improves performance and productivity and reduces the increasing costs of incivility.


The Cost of Unkindness


 According to Harvard Business Review’s The Price of Incivility and Christine Porath and Christine Pearson’s survey of 14,000 employees, 62% experienced workplace incivility regularly – at least once a month. For others, this might be daily. Some bosses told employees their efforts were “mediocre” or “pitiful” and literally called them “good for nothing”. This unkindness has catastrophic effects on morale, motivation and productivity:

  • “48% intentionally decreased their work effort.
  • 47% intentionally decreased the time spent at work.
  • 38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work.
  • 80% lost work time worrying about the incident.
  • 63% lost work time avoiding the offender.
  • 66% said that their performance declined.
  • 78% said that their commitment to the organization declined.
  • 12% said that they left their job because of the uncivil treatment.
  • 25% admitted to taking their frustration out on customers”.

According to a McKinsey report, customers are less likely to buy from an organisation perceived to be rude to their employees, not only their customers. Rudeness and disrespect simply does not make business sense.

This is aside from the mental health and physical health costs of stress, anxiety and depression.

So, let’s turn this around. Let’s spread kindness instead and reap the benefits.




The Benefits of a Kind Workplace


A positive workplace where kindness and respect are the norm often translates into positive outcomes such as:

  • Increased effort and quality of work
  • Better performance
  • People willing to put in extra hours and go the extra mile
  • Increased focus and concentration on work – worry-free
  • Better working relationships and friendliness
  • Greater commitment and loyalty to the organisation
  • Better retention rates
  • Improved customer perception
  • Increased productivity and profit.

Organisations that go the extra mile in showing kindness and great customer service reap the benefits. See the video of Bill Taylor, of Fast Company, discussing how an act of kindness by a Buick dealer left a lasting positive impression.

Such actions create great PR, positively promoting their reputation, and increasing profit through confirmed sales, repeat business, and reaching valuable new customers by word of mouth.


6 Tips for a Kinder Kind of Working


 As well as self-regulating, managers and employees can employ strategies to nurture kindness and civility in others.


1.  Manage yourself

Be self-aware. Notice what you say and do, and how you come across.

Teasing and sarcasm can be hurtful – even when meant as a ‘joke’. Making fun of people and/or putting them down rarely motivates and/or improves engagement.

It’s not just face-to-face (or email) unkindness that matters. Notice if you find yourself gossiping or criticising others behind their backs, too. This rarely brings about positive outcomes for anyone.

What about inclusion? Are you only sharing your good ideas and thoughts with certain people, whilst excluding others? Try inclusion and openness – and you might be surprised at the opportunities and learnings that open up.


2. Challenge unkindness

If you experience – or witness – any unkindness, bullying or harassment – do take action. If you suffer it and let it go by, or you laugh it off, or ignore it – you are condoning it, and adding to a culture of unkindness as the norm. Insidiously, if unchallenged, it slips into all aspects of work, making for an unpleasant environment, and affecting people’s health.

Champion respect and kindness where you can.


3. Model kindness

Part of influencing or changing the culture of an organisation is by people acting as role models – demonstrating the behaviour they expect of others.

In Harvard Business Review Christine Porath said, “25% of managers who admitted to having behaved badly said they were uncivil because their leaders—their own role models—were rude. If employees see that those who have climbed the corporate ladder tolerate or embrace uncivil behavior, they’re likely to follow suit. So turn off your iPhone during meetings, pay attention to questions, and follow up on promises.”

All staff – not just leaders – can be effective role models.


4. Show appreciation and praise

Tell people what they are doing well. Write personal notes to people who are good role models, treat people well, and embody the values of the organisation. Doug Conant, once CEO and president of Campbell Soup, sent 30,000 handwritten notes of gratitude to staff, in his time.

Remember a ‘Thank you’ often goes a long way in recognising someone’s efforts and boosting their morale and is one of the cheapest interventions.


5. Ask for feedback

Get a reality check from those who work with you or for you. Ask what they like and don’t like about your behaviour or style of leadership. Modify, accordingly.


6. Spread kindness

Think up creative ways to be kind. Whether it’s giving everyone you see a beaming smile, doing someone an unexpected favour or buying cakes for everyone in the office, there are small or large ‘gifts’ you can give people. Check out the Pay It Forward movement, and print off some Pay It Forward cards to hand out to people, so they can spread the good deeds and kindness.


Also, see my last post on World Kindness Day, for more tips and information, including Random Acts of Kindness.


Whilst there are numerous strategies and techniques I can offer clients to cope with unkindness, you can model kindness, yourself. You can influence or change systems and company ethos to offer a kinder, civil way of working. You can create a kinder workplace.


What will you do to celebrate kindness day in your workplace?


Let’s lead a kindness revolution.


If you or your organisation could benefit from more kindness – or from coaching or transformation in other areas, please get in touch.

If you would like to, please download my coaching programme brochure – Women’s Leadership Coaching – For Women in Development – specifically designed for women working in global development.

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