Does kindness matter in the workplace? How can showing more kindness help you build your professional network, feel more satisfied at work? How do you show kindness in challenging situations? And how can you start adding kindness to your work space today?
As a culture, we are increasingly finding more and more personal fulfillment through our careers which makes developing healthy relationships within them crucial to not only our success but also our well-being. Relationship expert Esther Perel, known for her extraordinary podcast Where Should We Begin and other published works on modern relationships released a whole new series last year entitled How’s Work. Both series explore professional relationships through the lens of a counselor and via what feels like an eavesdrop on an intimate conversation that would normally take place within the walls of a therapist’s office, but the latter focuses on professional relationships. Her tagline reminds us “All the relational habits you built-in life don’t immediately disappear the moment you walk in the office door”. So what does this have to do with kindness? Well, quite a lot.
Acts of kindness benefit not just the receiver, but the giver as well. Studies have shown that it increases productivity, energy levels, and employee well-being, but it’s so easy to get wrapped up in our day-to-day stresses, become emotionally over-stimulated, and forget we are all complicit in co-creating our work environments--for better or worse. So, how can you nourish kindness at your workplace? We’ve got a few suggestions for you!
Treat others how you want to be treated
Starting with the golden rule. Treating others how you want to be treated isn’t just for your personal relationships. The difference is we often have more control over who we choose in our personal relationships. In a workplace, not so much. There are more dynamics at play--different kinds of people compounded within a stress-prone environment, one where a lot of time and energy is spent. Its very nature makes it a challenging space, making kindness the necessary component in turning that space into a productive, healthy work culture--a culture of kindness.
Relationships are everything
To circle back to Esther Perel’s work regarding professional relationships, if we are finding personal fulfillment in what we put on our CV, succeeding at work will only be as good as the relationships we nurture. You may not see your coworkers as your friends, they may hold points of view you disagree with or can’t relate to, which tend to be the kinds of roadblocks that make showing kindness the most challenging. But if relationships in the workplace are a pillar of a solid professional network, navigating connections with many different kinds of people is essential.
Kindness is not being a pushover
Sometimes, kindness becomes a double-edged sword, often being the default expectation of women--even after boundaries have been crossed. But, we are here to remind you that kindness is not synonymous with a pushover. Being genuinely kind may reward you with a reputation that you're “a pleasure to work with”, but it doesn’t mean forgoing your thoughts or opinions, always saying yes, or never sticking up for yourself. In one of Brene Brown’s recent Unlocking Us podcast episode: Elizabeth Lesser on the Power of Women’s Stories, she speaks about having a “soft front, strong back” and we like that take on it--that one can be kind, empathetic, and understanding while keeping one’s spine intact.
Kindness in tough situations
Whether it’s an interpersonal conflict, a tough conversation with an employee, or setting a boundary with another colleague, confronting challenging situations in our workplaces is bound to occur sooner or later for everyone. Here are a couple of things to remember when you find yourself in a situation where kindness might be the hardest thing to bring to the table:
- Kindness is key to getting another person to hear you.
- Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind. - another Brene Brown bit of wisdom we covered in an article here that reminds us of the importance of honesty and being direct as an act of kindness.
- Don’t forget to put yourself in the shoes of whoever else is involved in the challenging situation.
- Give someone the benefit of the doubt and don’t assume the worst. We all have bad days, personal struggles, failures, and insecurities that we don’t just leave at the door when we come into work.
People remember how you make them feel
Perhaps this is the most important reason why kindness is so crucial to that healthy work culture. “People will forget what you said or did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Think of a person in your work (or personal) life who has made you feel empowered and motivated. Now, think of another person who has made you feel insecure and incapable. How did that affect your ability to perform your job or carry out your responsibilities? What else do you remember about this person? Creating a culture of kindness starts with people.
So, how can you go about adding kindness to your workplace today?
Advocate for co-workers/team successes -- Send your supervisor an email giving a shout-out about a co-worker
- Champion others successes -- Go out of your way to compliment someone you see--bonus points if you do it in a group chat or slack channel
- Tell your boss that you appreciate their leadership and dedication
- Be a cheerleader -- a “You got this!” to a co-worker that may really need to hear it can do wonders
- After a challenging day, a win, a project completion, celebrate it. Show those involved gratitude and reward them for their efforts
- Bring in something homemade to share, or suggest a potluck
- Treat a co-worker or someone you are working closely with
- Limit gossiping
- Smile, say hi to people in passing, or exhibit open and friendly gestures
- If you're getting a coffee, offer one to your colleague(s)
- When someone is speaking to you, stop whatever work you are doing, make eye contact, and listen rather than continuing to work while they are speaking
- Say thank you or send someone a thank-you card
When we are talking about kindness, we are really talking about nurturing relationships. In the professional environment, building those relationships up is key to creating a solid professional network. When it comes to creating teams and environments we want to be a part of, kindness is at its foundation, and kindness starts with people.