• No one should be alone in this. We can help.
If you - or someone you know - are having thoughts about suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Calls are connected to a certified crisis center nearest the caller's location. Services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.                                                                            If you - or someone you know - are having thoughts about suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Calls are connected to a certified crisis center nearest the caller's location. Services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Advertisement

Main Menu
Sponsored Links
Donate to DF
Latest Forum Topics
Search

Find a Therapist
Powered by Good Therapy
Forum Admin  Forum Admin

Kindness and Corporation

 Workplace kindness can be hit-or-miss or a cultivated corporate value. When it's there, people work harder.

  
Does kindness have a proper place at the office? Or is it found mostly on a stool in the corner with a small but definite dunce cap?

On the one hand, employees might be inspired by the likes of the Dalai Lama, who said, "This is my simple religion—Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness." On the other hand, the Dalai Lama never had to make his numbers.

Kindness, it turns out, is controversial.

"Kindness is not a word I would use in my trainings," one executive development coach insists. "The leaders at the level on which I work don't relate to it, because it describes a social value. The closest we come is an emphasis on creating a respectful workplace, avoiding sexual harassment, racial intolerance, or gender bias."

Good, of course, but not exactly the tender offer of kindness. Perhaps it's that very sense of tenderness that gives kindness its image problem. One female litigator described her own wariness regarding warm civility: "If a male is pleasant and easy to work with, he's regarded as a nice guy. But if I extend opposing counsel a common courtesy, say, on a scheduling matter where he has a legitimate conflict, I am often seen as a pushover, and that works against my client's interests. I can't afford to be seen as a pleaser."

One CEO vigorously defended his own check on compassion: "I'd love to be able to step in and hand a valued employee some cash because I've heard his wife got laid off and I know he needs the money. But people aren't discreet about that kind of thing; they tell. And then every other employee wonders why I didn't do the same for him or her."

You could argue that the milk of human kindness is pretty much curdled at the office when it stirs images of weakness, naivete, self-promotion, or self-defense. All the downsides notwithstanding, there is a strong current of kindness stubbornly running through some workplaces. And where it flows, people smile more. They work harder, too.

In their book, Leading with Kindness, William Baker and Michael O'Malley contend that corporate kindness positively impacts profits. They identify six qualities of kind managers—compassion, integrity, gratitude, authenticity, humility, and humor—and believe a kind management style improves employee performance and retention.

Depending on how you define it, kindness can be seen as an individual character trait, present or not as a function of who works where. "Some guys are just total pricks," says a manufacturing rep. "They wouldn't say hello to an entry level associate or look at the cleaning lady. But they would do a favor for a client."

The provost of a local college spoke admiringly of the school's president. "He's just a terrific guy who is genuinely interested in the well-being of people. He knows the life story of everyone in the building. He makes everyone feel valued."

But kindness can just as readily be a corporate cultural value, one to be supported or snuffed out depending upon the attitude of the people on top. Said one veteran of five top financial firms, "These companies were not identical in their basic human spirit. If you had one of those badass guys at the top, the signal was clear: Do whatever it takes. Losers will be bounced out. Winners will be rewarded. Kindness was just something that got in the way.

"When a decent guy ran the ship, it filtered through, made us more willing to collaborate with each other. It was better for business, not to mention morale. But better or worse, the CEO sets the emotional tone."

Overall climate control has its impact, but so does specific strategy. Kindness has found its place as a training tool and as a team-building approach. One physician referred to the importance of correcting staff error in a kind, sensitive fashion. "We try to prevent mistakes. But when they happen, they have to be addressed immediately. I'm a hyper guy, but when I review a staff error I deliberately calm down and give that nurse or that resident a chance to explain her error. If I'm too mad, I take time to get it together. Then we go over the correct course. I'm conscious of mentioning something they've done right recently, so we can end the conversation on a positive note."

This same physician sees kindness as a simple staff development strategy. "It's my job to make the people who work for me happy; if they're happy, they'll work harder. So I do stuff like bring them doughnuts, send out for lunch. I make sure to tell them how often my patients say they love you guys, how much the sick people appreciate their efforts."

A lot of people would be happier if they worked for him.

Each definition of workplace kindness has its own truth, but all have a common thread. Kindness is a step beyond respect or fair play, a step out in front of the corporate policy manual. It is personal, thoughtful, and—for want of a better word—caring. And it exists at the office.

I offer anecdotal proof, reported by a senior marketing division manager: "I worked for 10 years at a Fortune 100 firm. When my husband was dying, the CEO called me in and said, 'Go take care of your family. Your job will be here. You've taken care of us all these years. Let us take care of you.'" Chainsaw Al Dunlap took that company over five years later.

Calling for Kindness

Yes, work is about making money—that's why it's called work. But money and humanity do not have to be mutually exclusive. Call on your kinder side:

  • In times of emotional distress. You may not know what's wrong, but tuning into the folks around you will probably reveal when something is amiss. An appreciative remark, a supportive comment helps.
  • When giving negative feedback. "I'm just being honest" or "I'm just as hard on myself" are clues to add kindness to your management style.
  • When giving a sensitive personal review. A worker's hygiene problem or slovenly work area needs to be addressed, but keep your awkwardness from becoming harshness.
  • In times of personal emergency. People generally need three times the recovery time we grant them. Patience and understanding count.
Source URL: http://www.psychologytoday.com/node/20180

published on March 01, 2009 - last reviewed on November 04, 2010
This Month In Pictures
Aprilshowers.jpg
Members Online
Follow Us On Twitter
Like Us On Facebook
Medical News
  • Researchers reveal the average penis length with new study
    A lot of men worry about their penis size. But researchers hope the results of a new study, which reveals the average penis length, will reassure many men that they are 'normal.'
    Mental Health News From Medical News Today
    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 04:00
  • Risks of acetaminophen have been 'underestimated'
    Acetaminophen is the most widely-used painkiller worldwide. However, a new systematic review finds that use of the analgesic is linked with numerous adverse events.
    Pain / Anesthetics News From Medical News Today
    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 03:00
  • Australian mental health system needs action not another review
    A mental health expert believes another review of Australia's mental health system is a waste of time and resources, when what's needed is action, according to a podcast published by the Medical...
    Mental Health News From Medical News Today
    Monday, 02 March 2015 22:00
  • Kids who lack sympathy 'more likely to share if they respect peers' morals'
    A psychological experiment involving sharing chocolate with a hypothetical peer shows that kids who have low levels of sympathy may share out of moral respect.
    Mental Health News From Medical News Today
    Sunday, 01 March 2015 20:00
  • Teachers become healthier when they learn
    Several studies have indicated a connection between learning and health. In a recently published study from University West and Linnaeus University the researchers found that the health of school...
    Psychology / Psychiatry News From Medical News Today
    Monday, 02 March 2015 22:00
  • The more friends you drink with ... the more you drink
    Sometimes it is useful to show in a well conducted study something which one suspects could well be true.
    Psychology / Psychiatry News From Medical News Today
    Monday, 02 March 2015 22:00
  • Heart valve repair significantly improves emotional wellbeing in patients with mitral regurgitation
    Patients with severe mitral regurgitation (MR) often suffer from psycho-emotional symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, but after undergoing mitral valve repair surgery patients experience a...
    Depression News From Medical News Today
    Monday, 02 March 2015 22:00
  • Synthetic biology breakthrough leads to cheaper statin production
    University of Manchester researchers, together with industrial partner DSM, have developed a single-step fermentative method for the production of leading cholesterol-lowering drug, pravastatin...
    Pharma Industry / Biotech Industry News From Medical News Today
    Monday, 02 March 2015 21:00
  • Cancer screening concerns
    Adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities are much less likely to be screened for colorectal cancer, research showsAccording to new research, adults in Ontario with intellectual and...
    Autism News From Medical News Today
    Monday, 02 March 2015 21:00
  • Why debunked autism treatment fads persist
    The communication struggles of children with autism spectrum disorder can drive parents and educators to try anything to understand their thoughts, needs and wants.
    Psychology / Psychiatry News From Medical News Today
    Monday, 02 March 2015 21:00
  • Shake it off? Not so easy for people with depression, new brain research suggests
    Getting rejected hurts depressed people for longer, U-M/Stony Brook/UIC study finds -- due to the lack of a natural pain & stress-reducing chemicalThe brains of healthy individuals (left...
    Depression News From Medical News Today
    Monday, 02 March 2015 21:00
  • Strong connection between violence and mental illness during Guatemala Civil War
    Those who experienced violence significantly more likely to suffer from PTSD and alcohol-related disordersViolence during the civil war in Guatemala from 1960 to 1996 resulted in the development...
    Anxiety / Stress News From Medical News Today
    Monday, 02 March 2015 20:00
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Latest Articles
Andertoon
Daily Toon Click to enlarge
ANDERTOONS.COM PSYCHIATRY CARTOONSPsychiatry Cartoonsby Andertoons
Favourite Tweets by @DepressionForum
Depression Forums - A Depression & Mental Health Community Support Group
Copyright © 2014 The Depression Forums Incorporated - A Depression & Mental Health Social Community Support Group. All rights reserved.
The Depression Forums are intended to enable members to benefit from the experience of other members who have faced similar mental health issues by sharing their experiences.
* DF does NOT vouch for or warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any posting or the qualifications of any person responding.
Use of the Forums is subject to our Terms Of Service (TOS) and forum guidelines which prohibit advertisements, solicitations or other commercial messages by members, or false, defamatory, abusive, vulgar, or harassing messages and may subject violators to be banned from the forums.
All postings reflect the views of the author but become the property of DepressionForums.org. Your personal information will never be shared with others.
If you have any questions on how it will be used, please see our our privacy policy.
Information supplied on Depression Forums should not be relied upon and is not a substitute for medical advice from a health professional or doctor.
* DF © is an acronym for DepressionForums.org