Copyright © TIGERS Success Series

By Dianne Crampton

Company culture forms the foundation for the work environment and has an impact on the success or failure of an organization.  When kindness is an expectation in your culture, increased productivity is an outcome.

Talented employees who believe that the work environment is not kind but rather brutal, dog-eat-dog, and unappreciative will leave an organization.  And according to current work force research conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management and others, many talented employees are now biding their time, waiting until a new opportunity becomes available.

That time is coming faster than many economists thought, particularly those who claimed the end of the recession is at least 12 months away. With a 2.9% increase in the GDP, economists are now saying that a double dip recession has been avoided.  For leaders looking to minimize a workforce exodus during a time when they should be ramping up operations, building a little kindness into every day operations is a good strategy worth considering.

In the book, TIGERS Among Us – Winning Business Team Cultures and Why They Thrive, I write about organizational culture and the difference between cultures that are collaborative and team based from those that are individualistic or internally competitive.  And, I discuss how internally competitive cultures and work environments tend to be less cooperative because rewards and recognition often come with the price of one employee being more proficient than others. This means that some employees will withhold an element of cooperation in order to be better.

Yet organizations that champion cooperation also discover that employee morale often drives productivity.  This is because the work environment becomes happier. It is also important to note that cooperation and acts of kindness often go hand in hand.

Kindness is a desire to help others. It is the desire to do good things and to bring happiness to others.  It is the cornerstone of good relationships that are courteous, respectful, and benevolent.

However, with the downturn in the economy, many organizations have let employees go while piling their workloads on the desks of remaining employees. And in a dog-eat-dog work culture or a work culture with high levels of worker insecurity, kindness is hard to find – unless leaders start rewarding it with random acts of appreciation.

Simple acts of appreciation go a long way toward building a kind and cooperative work environment.  One leadership coaching client told me, “The more you show appreciation and kindness to employees, the more they will do a great job for you!”

Kindness, however, is an offshoot of something deeper — and important to human development than the rewards one reaps from it.  

From a humanistic psychology standpoint, kindness promotes belonging and it is constructive as a workforce attribute., for example, rewards employees each month for random acts of kindness. The goal is to promote a helpful and responsive workforce.  

There are other leaders who screen for this attribute in the performance interview. For one reason, the absence of kindness is indicative of a highly competitive personality or potentially the absence of empathy. People who lack empathy can have a devastating impact on team cohesion and do not comprehend how their actions impact others.    

Kindness is a demonstration of empathy which workplace bullies and win at all costs individuals find it difficult to demonstrate.  Leaders can train on skills but you cannot train kindness or empathy into an individual who lacks the capacity. And once you hire them it’s possible they will make your workforce combative, unhappy and unethical. 

So, what does kindness in the office look like?

  • Helping someone achieve a goal, without taking responsibility away from them.
  • Saying please and thank you.
  • Letting someone know that you thought the way they handled something was really great.
  • Being polite even if you are in a hurry.
  • Spending an extra 15 minutes with an employee to make sure she understands her goal so she can proceed with a sense of confidence.
  • Sending a thank you note or expressing your appreciation in other ways like leaving a chocolate kiss on someone’s desk.

Appreciating employees and one another goes a long way in the workforce. Showing appreciation without regard to getting something in return is an act of kindness.

Image by Fotilia