Kindness in Business Today

I wrote about kindness a short while ago, now kindness is not widely regarded as a matter for serious, corporate businesses. I found an interesting article on the Forbes website which discussed this matter at length. The media has often shown business leaders as cold, domineering and ultra-competitive. This makes me think of an image of Wall Street meets the Apprentice. Winning at all costs and knocking down others on the way is seen as the best way to succeed in the business arena. This seems a very out-of- touch way to run a business in 2020, but alas the “tough guy” archetype is still alive and strong. Corporate language is indeed still fighting talk. All around us there are examples of businesses that behave in ways that might reasonably be classed as unkind and unacceptable in any other place.

However, there may now be a move towards change. According to a recent Guardian article, a poll carried out for the strategy consultancy Britain Thinks revealed that just one person in eight wants life in the U.K. to return to “exactly as it was before” when the coronavirus pandemic is finally over. The article explains that there is a widespread appetite for a kinder society that “allows workers more time off with family and friends, cares about the environment, and ensures high levels of employment.”

The act of being considerate, supportive and responsive to the needs of others is of huge importance. Kindness should never be mistaken for weakness, in fact, it is a strength.

Personally, I have always tried to work for companies that place a high value on treating their staff in a fair manner and who realize the importance of both the physical and mental health of their workers and their families and loved ones. My first role in my career was with an upmarket department store chain, my younger self (and my older self too) was very impressed that one of the company directors when visiting the store took time to talk to every member of staff, about their families, studies, interests or even holidays. The fact that an upper management member took the time to do this, despite having a challenging role, made everyone feel valued.

Kindness begins (or ends) with these everyday interactions. Regardless of our seniority, each of us makes moment-by-moment choices about how kind to be to those around us. For better or worse, these choices affect how the business community functions. Bad behaviour, like bullying, rudeness or aggression, can filter from the top of a business, right down to the bottom of the chain. Not making for a productive or very pleasant work place. The effects of work place bullying should not be underestimated and surely companies do owe their workforce a duty of care. Which should include now having to deal with the additional stress caused my work colleagues who feel that they have no reason to consider others. Team work can make a business so much stronger.

What exactly does kindness at work involve? Phil Lewis from Corporate Punk, talks about embracing the five ‘C’s, which his practice uses as a foundation for consulting, coaching and training leaders in kindness as a pillar of effective leadership. These are:

Clarity. In many places of work, people are unclear about what leaders need from them in terms of responsibilities, objectives, targets and boundaries etc.

Candour. Human beings are not wired to thrive in conditions of ambiguity. This means communicating with openness, directness and honesty, particularly during periods of change.

Compassion. Many of us have complex lives, with any number of personal and professional problems to manage, both large and small. Failing to acknowledge this is not only unkind at a human level, it is also bad for business.

Courage. This is the difficult business of offering support to others and giving them what they need, especially when what they need is not what they want.

Consistency. “Do as I say, not as I do” is still the implicit mantra of too many leaders. Acting in ways that are consistent with what you expect of others and doing so all day, every day is kind to you and to them.

What is an unkind company? I would consider it to be one where people are in the everyday habit of prioritising their own needs over others in a way that undermines the team. People will not commit to workplaces that make no effort to understand and accommodate their individual circumstances and needs. And a lack of commitment tends to effect productivity and innovation, as well as causing a higher staff turnover.

So, by making a contribution to building a kinder work environment it helps both the staff and the company, to be more successful on many levels, including happiness and well-being. 

Kindness has a true value and the small things matter, a card on someone’s birthday, a genuine thank-you, is all it can take. To care about others and in turn for others to care about you is such a wonderful thing.

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