GUEST POST: Why Kindness Keeps You Saner and More Engaged at Work

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Kindness is a very sound business strategy.

Shola’s Note: Hey Solutionists! In my effort to introduce you to some amazing people who are working hard to make this world a more positive place, I have a treat for you! On this month’s Solutionist Spotlight, I have the honor of presenting Christopher G. Fox, Ph.D.–he’s the founder of Kindness Communication, which focuses on promoting kindness to achieve better results and greater focus in companies and organizations. So, without further ado, here’s Chris!

Let’s make a simple commitment together.

Data from Gallup show that employee engagement hovers in the range of 30%. That’s a lot of disengaged people. Companies make large-scale, top-down efforts to improve the picture, but year after year, engagement barely budges.

So the commitment is this: Let’s take workplace engagement into our own hands by being intentionally kind to our colleagues at every point of contact. Because it’s hard to care about your job when you don’t care for each other.

The Power of Kindness at Work

All too often, we walk into a meeting, sit down, and check our phones with barely a brusque nod to our colleagues in the room already. We pass people in the hallway and look down or away. Intentional kindness does not require grand gestures of generosity to change the dynamic. In fact, a simple smile and genuine feeling of being glad to see a coworker already makes a world of difference and triggers positive feedback.

Maybe you’re asking yourself though: “What’s in it for me? Why should I be the one to start?” Maybe you think it’s just not realistic in the environment where you work. But biology, psychology, and everyday human experience all make a very strong case for it.

First, neuroscience will be on your side.

Numerous studies have shown that practicing kindness improves your own well-being. At the same time, it triggers a mirroring response in others. Kindness is more than just nice. It’s physically and neurologically contagious. Brain science also shows that acts of kindness, even on a small scale, release neurotransmitters that combat stress and reduce the negative effects of stress on your metabolism.

Second, kindness establishes a foundation of community, leading to shared purpose and a commitment to shared values. It is so much easier to do a job when you’re participating in a sense of greater meaning with your colleagues rather than keeping your guard up or scrambling to hold your own.

Third, looking at business results, better intentions spur greater trust. Trust increases the effectiveness of collaboration and decision-making. Teams make more thoughtful decisions when they are thoughtful towards each other. From that standpoint, intentional kindness is the ultimate commitment to your customers, peers, and stakeholders.

Fourth, kindness increases your own sense of fulfillment and joy. After all, you spend large portions of your life while at work. You can choose to be authentically happy every time you see your colleagues, because you are going to get something accomplished together. By doing so, you refocus your attention in the workplace on accomplishment.

6 Tips to Create a Kinder Workplace

Ultimately, achieving this change and realizing these benefits takes very little effort on your part. So why not? Here are a few tips to get you going:

  1. Start every day by taking five minutes to review who you’ll be interacting with during the work day and sending them thoughts of kindness. Imagine them having a productive, fulfilling day. This meditative approach engages your own sense of empathy, like exercising a muscle, and it also simply helps you plan and prepare for your own day in a kindness-based way.
  2. Project kindness and good wishes outwards by greeting and smiling at your coworkers, even in passing. You can do the same even when picking up the phone or writing an email.
  3. When working directly with others, start by stating exactly what you’ll achieve together, using language like “let’s” and “we’re going to.” In other words, put clarity about the shared goal before doling out individual tasks.
  4. Although misalignment and conflict are natural parts of the human equation at work, you can hold the line on kindness by managing your reactions. When you spot potential conflict, pausing for just a few short seconds and being intentional about how the way you respond achieves your ends. It helps defuse the intensity of disagreements with others.
  5. Always, always assume that the person you’re interacting with has the best intentions. Much of the underlying residue of disengagement workers feel comes from hidden defensiveness, territoriality, insecurity, or suspicion.
  6. You’ll undoubtedly feel your own natural rhythms of kindness kick in once you start practicing, too.

The stakes behind your kindness efforts really do matter. No one will bridge your engagement gaps for you, despite the best intentions of human resources or engagement studies. So take it into your own hands, and let the contagiousness of communicating kindness work the way our social brains are designed to work.

Christopher FoxAbout Chris

Christopher G. Fox is the founder of Kindness Communication. Kindness Communication focuses on promoting kindness to achieve better results and greater focus in companies and organizations. He is also Managing Partner at Syncresis, a healthcare marketing consultancy dedicated to the idea that the online experience helps transform connected patients into healthier populations. He tweets on kindness and on patient engagement at @CGFSyncresis.

Shola

Shola

Founder of The Positivity Solution
Author, keynote speaker, and kindness extremist who is committed to changing the world by helping as many people as possible to live and work with more positivity.
Shola
Shola
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Comments

  1. Hello Chris!

    Thank you for your awesome blog post about kindness! I can’t think of anything more important. I have told my children that, no matter what else they choose to do in life, the most important thing is to always be kind.

    I am so glad to see that you have a passion about this! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with Shola’s readers. Positivity and kindness certainly go hand in hand! 🙂

    Kathy

    • Hi Kathy,

      I appreciate the kind feedback! And it’s great to hear how you’re promoting kindness with your children. We need kind people out there in the world to keep the kindness movement going!

      Christopher

  2. Hello Chris…Nice to “meet” you. 🙂

    Love your tips for promoting kindness in the workplace. I’m going to print this and leave a few copies laying around the office. I work with some people who are in managerial positions who actually cause the defensiveness, territoriality, insecurity, and suspicion that you spoke of. I feel like it’s so important for managers to not treat employees as if they are always doing something wrong. Thanks for your guest blog and have a wonderful week!!

    Spring

    • Spring,

      Thank you for your comments! I can well imagine what you mean with managerial behaviors. Sometimes, managers fall into a sort of trance, where they focus on managing against errors and failure rather than managing for outcomes and success. It becomes the lens through which they view the world and regard their reports. I learned early on as a manager that teams perform so much better when you start off trusting that they have the best intentions and that they share a commitment to successfully moving the team and company forward. If you take that management approach, then you can focus on enabling them to carry out that commitment, rather than forcing them to meet your always-disappointed expectations.

      With kind regards,

      Chris

  3. Nice post – love the tips about creating kindness. Although I can’t say I’ve ever experienced such a lack of kindness in any workplace, I guess it has to a lot to do with the culture and line of work you’re in.

    For instance, the organizational structures of American, European and Asian companies look very different, and it isn’t certain that these principles of injecting kindness into the workplace would have a positive effect all around the world.

    It all comes down to a number of variables on which the company you work for is based upon.

    • Mathias,

      Thank you so much for letting me know you liked the post. That’s great that you haven’t encountered such lacks of kindness. I’ve seen a mixed bag in the organizations I have worked with. Some are kind from the top down, some have pockets of kindness, and some really struggle with cultural issues that come from embedded anxieties about the business, its strategy, and its future.

      Your comment is also prompting me to consider the intersection of kindness and culture–both national culture and corporate culture. You’re right that kindness behaviors don’t have the same valence in every cultural context. That’s really helpful insight, and I really appreciate it.

      With kind regards,

      Chris

  4. Hi Chris, thank you for visiting us at The Positivity Solution, and writing a great post about kindness. I get Mathias’ point, that kindness may have differing cultural variations and expressions. In any context, I do believe it is essential to a healthy, productive environment. Your explanation and list was refreshing and encouraging. I especially appreciate point #5, to not attack others’ intentions. It seems to me that this one causes much strife. When people go from having a disagreement, to attacking each other’s intentions (which means motives), the situation always escalates. Then there is conflict, grudges, people taking sides, etc., and it is very hard to come back from that. When I’ve found myself in that environment, I was overwhelmed and just moved on to another job. Right now I work at a very positive place, surrounded by kind and helpful people. I encourage everyone who feels stuck in a place where the culture is to be unkind, to know there are also some really wonderful employers out there, and to start looking.

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