When we think of the qualities required for succeeding in the workplace, we often think of having good initiative, being able to work within a team, or time management skills. But what about kindness? Is this something that is discussed at interviews? Kindness is not always top of the priority list in a work environment, neither for the employer nor the employee. The workplace is traditionally seen as competitive, and people who display more emotional and thoughtful attributes don’t always make it to the top.
As a result, the lack of kindness makes an impact on the workplace, which can cause a ripple effect of unclear communication, inadequate teamworking, criticism and unproductivity. However, mental health leaders and campaigners are paving the way for the ‘ability to be kind’ to be recognised and desirable as a trait or skill in the workplace. Talking about wellness in the workplace can improve the quality of work and being gentle with each other and monitoring our self-care during our time spent at work is a welcome addition.
Research has found that generosity and kindness creates a ripple effect on workplace culture. A study in the journal Emotion found that acts of kindness in the workplace don’t go unnoticed and has a significant impact on overall positivity in the working environment, together with an improved sense of employee wellbeing.
Interestingly, the participants of the study felt in control at work and reported significantly higher levels of happiness. The acts of kindness, however small and insignificant, seemed to act as a buffer during periods of stress and severe working conditions, and employees also felt more autonomous and more competent in their workplace.
When a workplace promotes kindness and compassion, they may see not only a happier workforce but also an improved profit margin. This could be a result of kindness removing the barriers between a lack of bonding, teamworking and communication within the workplace. These areas increase stress, anxiety and physical ill-health at work, while positive social interactions at work boost employee general health and wellbeing.
Acts of kindness within the workplace boost the amount of ‘prosocial’ behaviour, together with employees feeling that they are part of a unit and a workplace that cares about its workforce.
When an employee is the recipient of an act of kindness, they will usually use their initiative to find out who has been kind to them or discover ways in which they can be helpful to their colleagues. This not only spreads a general feeling of generosity but also increases the culture of employees becoming more creative in how they show their kindness and generosity at work. This culture builds momentum and creates a platform for employees to think outside the box and exercise creative thinking and planning.
Practice makes perfect
Acts of kindness in the workplace don’t have to be forced or prescribed. This way of working can be introduced gradually and discovered more naturally. When employees perform random acts of kindness regularly, each individual improves their social and communication skills, which contributes to the overall culture.
It only takes one person to start changing their actions at work, and the ripple effect it produces makes a considerable difference in the workplace. A change in thinking impacts our behaviour, and this, in turn, influences and inspires others to change their actions. As we as individuals change, organisations will eventually change too and become more respectful and compassionate, leading to a kinder working environment.
Kindness is the theme for this year's Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May 2020).