by Michelle Gray, President, HR Synergy, LLC
Workplace culture is one of the most overlooked, yet important parts of running a successful business. As an HR consultant, I observe situations everyday where employees feel burnt out and unappreciated, and wonder why they stay with their employer. Unfortunately, in many cases, these people are the most talented, loyal, and passionate employees. At a time when attracting and retaining quality employees is both difficult and costly, I have advised many of my clients to work on creating a culture of kindness in the workplace.
What is a Culture of Kindness?
To some, this concept may sound a bit fluffy. What exactly do I mean by kindness? Sure, being kind in the workplace involves caring about a co-worker’s concerns and appreciating their contributions. But it also means recognizing the humanity of a colleague:
- Fully listening when someone speaks to you.
- Looking the person in the eyes with genuine attention.
- Simply acknowledging someone’s presence by saying “hello,” or sharing a casual smile.
- Asking someone if they are feeling better.
- Displaying thoughtfulness without expecting anything in return.
- Pitching in when someone needs a little extra help.
- Picking up coffee for a colleague.
Benefits of Creating a Culture of Kindness in the Workplace
According to research conducted by psychologist Jonathan Haidt, when leaders are polite, respectful, sensitive, or willing to make sacrifices for their teams, employees may feel more loyal and committed to their boss. Another study indicated that when leaders are fair, members of their teams collaborate better and work more productively—together and individually.
In their book, Leading with Kindness, authors William Baker and Michael O’Malley contend that corporate kindness positively impacts profits. They identify six qualities of kind managers—compassion, integrity, gratitude, authenticity, humility, and humor—and believe a kind management style improves employee performance and retention.
Kindness is Contagious in the Workplace
Haidt also found that employees of compassionate leaders are more likely to act in a helpful and friendly manner toward other employees, even when they had nothing to gain. Researchers Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler have also found that if you’re kind, those around you are more likely to act kindly, too.
Kindness Must Come from the Top
As business owners and managers, we are constantly multi-tasking, focused on the “big picture” and the needs of our customers. Frequently, we forget that our employees are also our customers and our greatest asset. Creating a culture of kindness in the workplace begins with us. It has to be part of our corporate DNA. How are you creating a culture of kindness in the workplace?
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