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Organizational Development And Workplace Culture: The Unexpected Benefits of Kindness

Updated: May 21, 2019

The other day, as I was driving home, I spotted a dog untethered to its leash gallivanting haphazardly in traffic. I immediately snatched a spare leash from the collection I keep in my car and proceeded to eagerly chase the dog down my street. To onlookers, it was a scene out of “The Fast and the Furious”. The dog narrowly avoided getting hit by passing vehicles on multiple occasions, despite my valiant attempts to obstruct traffic.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the dog darted into a nearby café where she met her owner. I expected the owner to be happy to be reunited with her dog. She afforded the dog no such affection. After I recounted the events, she continued to assume an air of nonchalance and simply shrugged. Annoyed, I urged her to keep her dog tethered to its leash, explaining that I’d witnessed a dog get killed outside my house not too long ago. Once again, she shrugged and ventured off. As my tears started to well up, a cyclist who had witnessed the events approached me and gifted me with his warm embrace. He consoled me and insisted that, despite the dog owner’s lack of caring for her own dog, I did the right thing.

We live in toxic times. We are enveloped by anger, rage, and rancor. In both our personal and professional lives, it seems like kindness has become a rarity, an exception to the rule. With racism, sexual harassment, bullying, and other toxicities afflicting the workplace, kindness has all but become an afterthought at many organizations. As an executive and global citizen, it’s critical that you realize the importance of infusing kindness into your organizational development. Kindness can function as one of the deadliest repellentsrepellants against negativity. As Mark Twain reminds us, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

The Benefits Of Kindness In Organizational Developments

  • Kindness boosts our happiness levels

There’s a strong connection between kindness and happiness. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that individuals who performed acts of happiness experienced a greater boost in happiness as compared to their counterparts who did not perform acts of kindness. The virtuous cycle between kindness and happiness is governed, in large part, by biology. When we perform acts of kindness, it triggers the release of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter (a phenomenon known as the “helper’s high”). Clinical psychologist Lara Honos-Webb explains, “When we help others and do kind acts, it causes our brain to release endorphins, the chemicals that give us feelings of fervor and high spirits — similar to a ‘runner’s high'.”

When you infuse kindness and, in turn, happiness into your workplace, the effects propagate inside and outside of your organization. Research by Social Market Foundation (SMF) and Warwick’s Centre on Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) found that happy employees are up to 20% more productive than their unhappy counterparts. When an organization embeds kindness into its DNA, it's also more effectively able to augment its brand image and reputation, even without the buttress of a large PR or social responsibility department. In his book “The Happiness Advantage”, Shawn Achor reveals that happiness boosts sales by 37%. Achor explains, “Given the unprecedented level of unhappiness at companies and the direct link between the employees’ happiness and business outcomes, the question is NOT whether happiness should matter to companies.”

  • Kindness instills confidence

Ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu once remarked, “Kindness in words creates confidence.” Lao-Tzu was ahead of his times. Recent research has determined that kindness is indeed a natural confidence builder. Even the smallest acts of kindness (holding the elevator for a colleague or changing the printer cartridge, for example) make us feel good about ourselves and help us build up resilience to negativity. Lisa Firestone, a clinical psychologist and the Director of Research and Education for the Glendon Association, explains, “Generosity is a natural confidence builder and a natural repellent of self-hatred. Not only does it make us feel better about ourselves, but it actively combats feelings of isolation and depression.”

As a trained psychologist, I’m uniquely positioned to help my clients proactively infuse kindness into their culture. Through visualization, meditation, mindfulness, compassion, gratitude, and other training, I’m able to help my clients build a powerful kindness muscle that pays enormous dividends, both inside and outside of the workplace.

  • Kindness is contagious

Kindness is as contagious as the common cold. A recent 2018 study published in Emotion revealed that when employees performed small but noticeable acts of kindnesses towards co-workers, everyone reaped benefits. Jamil Zaki, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and the Director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Lab, explains, “[P]eople imitate not only the particulars of positive actions, but also the spirit underlying them. This implies is that kindness itself is contagious, and that that it can cascade across people, taking on new forms along the way.” As an executive, it’s incumbent on you to recognize the immense power of small acts of kindness. As it diffuses, kindness affects all individuals in its wake. In the world of business, nice guys and gals don't finish last.

Greek fabulist and storyteller Aesop once averred, “The level of our success is limited only by our imagination and no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” Even the smallest acts of kindness can trigger a virtuous cycle and transform your organizational culture. Kindness is not only a “nice to do”, but it affords you with a competitive advantage. Consider the approach adopted by DirectPay. For the past two decades, employees at DirectPay have been instructed to assist their competitors' customers when they call DirectPay accidentally. The act of kindness has resulted in $3.25 billion in revenue over the years! Kindness is infectious. While the dog owner might not have thanked me for saving her dog’s life, I’m hopeful that my efforts left a lasting impression and, hopefully, will inspire her to care more for her dog. As the Dalai Lama reminds us, "Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn't anyone who doesn't appreciate kindness and compassion.” To learn more about how kindness can be infused into your company’s culture, contact me about my organization development and executive coaching services.


Dr. Nadine Greiner PhD, Executive Coaching San Francisco

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’.

Contact Information: Feel free to email Dr. Nadine San Francisco Executive Coaching at or by phone at (415) 861-8383.

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