By MJ Cowling
A number of years ago when I was starting my first management role my boss at the time pulled me aside and explained to me that in order to ‘make it’ I needed to to stop being kind and get a little more ‘nasty’ in me. At the time I nodded and smiled, the whole time thinking in my head ‘no chance!’ Within months I had found another role and left that organisation, it’s values and mine clashed, being a terrible person just to get ahead or succeed was never going to be in my DNA. It got me thinking though, why is kindness such an underrated value in the workplace?
As Roosevelt said ‘Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough’.
The problem with kindness though is that it is often mistaken with weakness, many people believe that being kind means you are a pushover and too ‘soft’. But kindness is the opposite of that, it takes extreme strength to continue to be kind in the modern world, where being individualistic, self-involved and out for number one are much easier. I read the other day that narcissists are the happiest people in the world, and it’s not difficult to see why, when your life is pure self-involvement with little thought of others you have little to worry about except well, yourself.
Our Hollywood role models of what a successful leaders and managers looks like come from a long line of a*holes, where kindness rarely makes an appearance. From the Dolly Parton classic, 9 to 5, The Devil Wears Prada, Wall Street, A Few Good Men, the list goes on, being successful = being a hard hearted tough guy. But increasingly as we evolve as humans there is a greater emphasis on connection, on wellbeing, mindfulness and wellness in the workplace and all of those things require empathy and kindness.
Kindness can also help to manage confrontational workplace situations. Do you know how difficult it is to be mean to someone who is being kind? I learnt this lesson way back in my university days while working a part-time job at a French restaurant my boss at the time had a saying ‘kill them with kindness’, being super kind and helpful when an irate customer is complaining about their Coq au Vin not being to their taste quickly diffuses any situation. The mental strength that takes to continue to be kind when all you of your instincts are to throw the dish straight back at them is a sign of toughness not weakness. You’re taking the higher ground, being a better person and not allowing another person’s emotions and behaviour be reflected in your own behaviour.
How often have you heard someone say they are going to leave their workplace or change job because their boss was too kind? I’m betting it’s probably never. In the end people want to feel valued, respected and appreciated. In my experience being a decent person, colleague or boss and will ensure you are repaid by your team in spades, they will bend over backwards for you and be willing to go that extra mile. You will build loyalty and a place that people want to continue to work at.
Kindness isn’t the same as being nice, no one expects every workplace to be all rainbows and unicorns, individual’s complex human-ness and life situations means that on any given day we all have the ability to bring the worst of ourselves into a workplace but on balance finding those small opportunities to show compassion and appreciation by demonstrating a small act of kindness goes a long way.
Here at ele, alongside a sense of fun, positivity and the ability to do a great job, kindness is one of the top traits we look for when bringing a new team member in. By promoting kindness in the workplace culture people will feel a stronger sense of wellbeing, of inclusion and of belonging which surely has got to be good for everyone.
Want more Career, Business & Money? Click here to read our article on Why Most People Should Never Be Managers and here for Five of the Worst Personality Types in the Office (and how to deal with them).