Whilst on holiday earlier in the summer I bought a mug with an image of a bright orange crab surrounded by love hearts on it, and it says “claways be kind”. I’m drinking my morning coffee out of it right now. It’s a mantra to live our lives by. But it’s made me reflect on whether I see kindness at the forefront in the workplace. Are our senior leadership teams, our managers, our CEOs recognising kindness as a quality to promote, reward or be proud of?
If the answer is ‘yes’ in your organisation, then you’re one of the lucky ones. If it’s a more negative response, then we should think about what change you can bring about.
Simply thanking your work colleagues is an easy place to start. Let me share a couple of my recent experiences - My boss sent me a ‘Thank you’ card to mark my two-year work anniversary, my colleague thanked me for helping her with an Excel problem, and a client thanked me for a quick turnaround on an urgent request that was sent through. In turn, I thanked one of our trainers for spending time discussing a workshop change we wanted to implement, I thanked our IT support team for resolving an MS Teams issue well within the allotted support agreement time, and I was appreciative of a social chat with a client. I’ve ‘paid back’ my “thank yous” with more “thank yous”. We’ve created a culture of gratitude.
Recognising the small successes and achievements is often more gratifying than celebrating the big projects and strategic actions. It’s the small, perhaps unnoticed tasks, the mundane day-to-day efforts that keep the business running that should once in a while get a highlight and a high-five. And, whilst we are at it, let’s not wait for the 360° feedback and OD led projects to provide feedback and positive comments to our colleagues. “It was great when you did x the other day, it really helped me, and I really appreciate it." Praise should always be prompt and specific, don’t hold onto it.
Whilst recording the thank you in an email keeps it for posterity and tagging a colleague in a social media post offers public praise, why not say thank you in person quietly? And let’s follow it up with a coffee, a sweet treat (or a healthy one), initiate a lunch-date, or suggest a walk outside. The act of spending time with your colleagues and really getting to know them allows you to better understand their needs. And then, when the time comes, you are better able to support them when you see them in need, and you can empathise with them as you know what makes them tick.
The simple act of listening displays kindness. That’s actively listening - pay attention to what your colleagues are actually saying. Allow the time and space to talk. Really try and understand their point of view and have kindness at the forefront of any response you are going to deliver. You’ll be contributing to a positive support network that will spread and gain credibility.
So have a think about how you can share a little kindness in your workplace and see if it’s reciprocated. And, whilst you are at it, get the senior management team to share in your culture of kindness.
And if you’d like to do something ‘kind’ right now, why not spend a few minutes completing the University of Sussex/BBC Radio 4 Kindness test.
You’ll be contributing to their research project and helping us all better understand how people’s experiences of kindness relate to their health and wellbeing.