Kindness is one of the most underrated concepts in business. ‘Kindness’ and ‘Workplace’ are two words rarely associated with one another. A survey conducted by the American Management Association (AMA) found that managers who were viewed as kind by their direct reports were associated with higher performance across a number of dimensions. Echoing these findings, Adam Grant, in his book “Give and Take”, cogently asserts that the extent to which a leader exhibits kindness and generosity is a strong predictor of team and organizational effectiveness.
With sexism, sexual harassment, bullying, racism, and other epidemics plaguing the workplace, kindness can act as a formidable and uplifting approach against negativity. Here are 3 easy ways to start practicing kindness in your workplace:
1. Practice gratitude
One of the most effective ways to demonstrate kindness is to show gratitude towards others. Dr. Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher explains, “Gratitude blocks toxic emotions, such as envy, resentment, regret and depression, which can destroy our happiness.” His research has shown that gratitude is associated with 23% lower levels of cortisol and other stress hormones.
To show gratitude, let your co-workers know that you appreciate them. Thank them for assisting you with a project. Celebrate them for closing a big sale. Commend them for speaking up during a meeting. Whether you thank them in person, send an email, or pen a handwritten note, the key is to be authentic and specific. Acknowledge the impact they’ve had on you and how they’ve helped you and the team succeed.
The simple act of smiling is an incredibly effective way to bestow kindness in the office. Smiling activates the release of dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. These neurotransmitters decrease stress and blood pressure levels and function as an antidepressant. What’s especially powerful is that smiling is infectious. A 2016 study published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences found that smiles are contagious (as are frowns and furrowed brows). Humans are susceptible to facial mimicry, the act of instinctively mirroring others’ emotional expressions. Showing off your pearly whites in the break room, during a meeting or presentation, or when walking down the office hallways can incite a positive domino effect.
3. Perform random acts of kindness
Kindness doesn’t always have to show up as bold public displays or grand gestures. Small random acts of kindness can really transform office morale. Hot off the press, a 2018 study published in Emotion investigated workers at a Coca-Cola plant in Spain and found that when select employees performed small but noticeable acts of kindness towards co-workers, everyone benefited.
Those that initiate acts of kindness (“givers”) often benefit more than recipients. Performing random acts of kindness activates the release of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter. The phenomenon is often referred to as a “helper’s high”. As an executive and leader, performing random acts of kindness in the office can pay dividends in terms of improving your and others’ well-being. You could clean up a communal space or offer to change the printer cartridge. Hold the elevator for a colleague or offer to go on a Starbucks run. Small acts can make a big difference.
In the workplace, kindness grows in a virtuous cycle and can prove more contagious than the flu. As Amelia Earhart once said “No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another.” An executive coach can help you prioritize kindness and leverage it as a powerful leadership tactic. Through emotional intelligence and other skills-based training activities, you can learn how to bestow genuine appreciation and kindness on your employees for your team to thrive. As an executive, leading with kindness can create a positive path to productivity that’s sure to beat the flu any day.
Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. provides Executive Coaching and Human Resources solutions. Her mission is to make the executive experience exceptionally enjoyable and effective. She believes that the world needs great leaders, and has dedicated her career to helping them. As an organization psychologist and former corporate CEO, Dr. Nadine understands the pressures and demands executives face. She offers her clients the high expertise that only comes with three decades of consulting success, and a dual Ph.D. in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology. Dr. Nadine is an in-demand speaker, teaches in doctoral programs, and coaches other consultants. She is the author of two books: ‘The Art of Executive Coaching: Secrets to Unlock Leadership Performance’, and of ‘Stress-less Leadership: How to Lead in Business and in Life’. amazon.com/author/nadinegreiner