Too many workplaces are missing the kindness factor, and it’s more damaging than you might realize, says Dr. Susan Mangiero, leadership coach and author of The Big Squeeze: Hugs & Inspirations for Every Grown-Up Who Loves Teddy Bears. Why? Because kindness is integral to employee engagement—and cultures of engagement are integral to high-performance organizations.
“Doing business revolves around relationships. Without strong, positive relationships, people can’t work together productively. They can’t communicate well. They can’t innovate. And positive relationships cannot flourish in the absence of kindness,” she warns.
When kindness is not present, everyone in the company detaches, stops communicating and loses trust. Teamwork suffers. Morale drops. Productivity falls. Absenteeism and turnover rates rise. And yes, customer satisfaction plummets—and eventually, customers leave. Kindness is the element that makes organizations great places to work—and it’s also the secret sauce that helps companies thrive.
Here are Mangiero’s ten best tips for making genuine kindness a habit—that every employee should follow, including leaders:
- First, practice being kind to yourself. If you don’t know how to nurture yourself, it’s hard to nurture others. Mangiero says practicing self-care is the best way to learn kindness and establish that you deserve kindness too. She suggests you do something kind for yourself (enjoy a cup of tea, take a short break, etc.) every day, and periodically treat yourself with something extra special.
- Make time to play to balance out the hard work you’re doing. You may be working aggressively for a promotion, or simply grinding away at an endless list of work projects, says Mangiero. Either way, don’t let your life be all work and no play. Whether you enjoy hiking, art, community theatre, or club sports, make time for it.
- Volunteer for a good cause. Finding a way to help others gets you in touch with your humanity and keeps you humble and kind. Every city has multiple opportunities to volunteer, so find a cause that resonates with you. Your employer may sponsor activities that you can do with your colleagues. Whether you’re tutoring underprivileged kids, working with the elderly, walking shelter dogs, or collecting food for the homeless, you’ll be working on your connection and kindness skills.
- Stay in touch with your friends and family. Don’t get so wrapped up in the rat race that you forget about your tribe, warns Mangiero. Stay close to your cherished family members and make time for your friends. Visit your favorite people regularly. Meet for coffee or dinner to catch up. If your job has taken you far away, schedule regular video chats to keep in touch. Sometimes sending a quick text can make you feel closer to those in your support network.
- Celebrate with friends and coworkers. Nurturing others means showing that you care when good things happen in their lives and resisting the urge to be jealous. Take a moment to applaud and praise others’ accomplishments instead of breezing right past them. “Congratulate your colleague on her promotion even if you’re working thanklessly at your job,” says Mangiero. “One day you’ll appreciate it when someone makes a big deal out of your accomplishments. The same goes for your friends. Be genuinely happy for their good news, and let it show.
- Practice your manners. Small niceties like hello, please, and thank you; holding doors for people; and asking how others are doing shouldn’t vanish when you’re stressed. In the hard-charging corporate world, however, manners can take a back seat when deals and deadlines are involved. Keep your work in perspective and remember that rude behavior makes a stronger impression than kindness, but not in a good way. Remember to be courteous to individuals in different jobs and at different levels, not just the boss.
- Go out of your way to make shy, left-out, or misunderstood people feel comfortable. Be sure to reach out and be friendly to those who need a little help socially. It’s the right thing to do.
- Send thank-you notes. It is good etiquette to send a thank-you note when anyone—a client, supervisor, or coworker—goes above and beyond for you. Get into the habit of writing old-fashioned thank-you notes now, instead of firing off an email or sending a text.
- Listen more than you talk. No matter how successful you are, remember that you really don’t know it all, and that it’s okay. “When I commit to really hearing what others say, I learn a lot and feel so much more connected to them,” she says. “Others appreciate the courtesy of being given a chance to express themselves. It’s a way of showing respect and empathy when we are willing to lend an ear to our colleagues and our loved ones. In business, it’s also a way of distinguishing ourselves from the competitors who don’t embrace the importance of letting someone else talk. In a hurried world, the lost art of careful listening is a good skill to develop.”
- Be a shoulder to cry on. When someone in your life is hurting and needs comfort (or someone to vent to) and you think you can help, be willing to engage and support the person. Yes, it can be uncomfortable and inconvenient to deal with another person’s troubles on top of your own, but true kindness often requires this kind of sacrifice.
“Being appropriately kind is not the same as being a pushover. To the contrary, being kind is a show of strength. Kindness is a gift that keeps on giving, and you’ll find that you are happier and more successful when you make it a part of your work practices and personal life,” Mangiero adds.
About the Author:
Dr. Susan Mangiero is the author of The Big Squeeze: Hugs & Inspirations for Every Grown-Up Who Loves Teddy Bears. She coaches financial organizations on using trust, kindness, and empathy to develop their relationship-building skills and grow their brand. Recognized as a thought leader in the areas of fiduciary best practices and trust-based business development, she has advised numerous companies, government organizations, and policy-making bodies. She is a business intelligence analyst, economist, and storyteller with experience in competitive strategy, client satisfaction, and risk management.
In addition to writing nearly 50 articles and chapters that have been published in prominent investment industry journals, magazines, and books, Mangiero has penned over 1,000 economic commentaries for her award-winning blog, Pension Risk Matters®. She has had the pleasure of leading workshops for thousands of business professionals about leadership best practices and the importance of integrity and empathy in attracting and retaining customers.
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