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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.