Practicing kindness in the workplace goes a long way for everyone involved. Not only does it result in happier, more engaged employees, but businesses benefit from lower employee absenteeism rates and enhanced productivity.
Images and news reports of violence and conflicts throughout the world bombard us daily. Although this news does not enter into the daily workings of the office, world dissent becomes the background noise around the workday.
Kindness in the workplace creates a haven for your employees. It strengthens the connections between people and gives your organization cohesiveness and constancy. An environment and attitude of kindness also create a ripple effect that affects not only your employees but your customers as well. Employees who are empathetic and kind strengthen collaboration between colleagues and teams, plus it creates a better experience for your customers.
In a recent article in Harvard Business Review, Christine Porath identified some of the harmful effects rudeness has on organizations and teams. Porath found that people exposed to rudeness are three times less likely to help others, and their inclination to share drops by more than half. Incivility also has the potential to infect teams with behavior resulting in insults, belittling and negative attitudes. Over time, rudeness can spread until dissension leads to dysfunction.
Practicing kindness in the workplace serves another important purpose that shows up in your business's bottom line: It makes individuals feel more connected to the mission of your company. According to Fit for Work, companies that value employee health and well-being have lower absenteeism rates and higher productivity.
Many acts of kindness are simple steps that you can introduce into any workday, such as smiling, saying hello or offering help. At a deeper level, you can integrate kindness into the central structure of your organization with three core behaviors that are practiced in your workplace. Implementing these three steps not only leads to happier, more productive employees, it enriches the entire organization.
1. Clearly define the behaviors you expect employees to practice.
The first place to start in implementing a culture of kindness is to identify specific behavior words that draw out the attitude and behavior you expect from employees. You might, for example, choose "friendly," "helpful" or "compassionate." In addition to the specific keyword, define that behavior so that all of your employees clearly understand what the word means and what is expected of them. It also keeps everyone aligned within the organization.
So, if your keyword is "friendly," you might define that behavior in action as taking time to smile, say hello to others, helping when and where you can and thanking customers and co-workers. Remind employees that it is not just about the words; it's the emotion and intent behind the words.
2. Respond rather than react.
As the owner or manager of a business, when a distressing incident occurs at work causing you to feel upset, frustrated or angry, your first reaction might be to fight back or to dig a hole in which to hide to avoid the uncomfortable situation.
Instead of reacting impulsively, take a few moments to focus your thoughts so you operate based on facts instead of how you feel. Set your emotions aside so you can maintain a calm and objective demeanor so employees and customers feel secure when working through difficulties. You exemplify kindness when you show your employees that you care about them by engaging with them rather than reacting poorly to adversities or setbacks.
3. Take time to show employees you care.
One of the easiest ways to inject kindness into your company is to care about the people and actively demonstrate that you care. Caring does not mean overlooking problems to avoid confrontation or keeping someone on a project who doesn't complete their work. Caring involves following a set of behaviors that gives employees stability and empowers them so they feel they can respond to events constructively rather than the emotions of the moment.
Take time to learn about each of your employees so you understand their history and work style. When you take the time to understand your employees, you create an environment that shows you care about each worker. This broader view further helps you make more informed decisions that result in a calmer approach to tackling difficult problems.
As you incorporate a sense of calm and constancy within the workplace, you create a workplace centered on kindness and empathy. Think about how you can define kindness in your workplace and what steps you can take to create a more cohesive, compassionate workplace.