Why kindness in the workplace is key to success

During challenging times, we should take care of our mental wellbeing just as much as we exercise physically. Mental Health Awareness Week kicks off today with a focus on kindness. Here, we explore what effects being kind has on success in the workplace.

With many businesses and individuals geared towards maximum productivity, workaholism is rife. This means we tend to forget about a simple and underrated behaviour that can make work positive for everyone: kindness. 

This is not just fluff, as scientific and psychological research has repeatedly proven that kindness in the workplace makes sense. Productivity, happiness and overall satisfaction levels are higher in kinder and more positive workplaces. 

Why kindness works

Kindness is good for us. It’s healthy. To test this hypothesis, a 2016 study in the US divided 500 people up into four groups and asked each one to complete a different task, which ranged from performing random acts of kindness for strangers to self-focused kindness like going for a massage. Participants that performed acts of kindness for the world and others overwhelmingly reported the highest levels of happiness and psychological wellbeing. This is because the brain releases dopamine, the feel-good hormone, when we focus our attention on doing good for people around us. 

Employees want more than perks like free massages or yoga classes — they want employers to ensure overall workplace wellbeing. Harvard Business Review referenced a Gallup poll which showed that engagement predicted wellbeing above and beyond anything else, even when workplaces offered benefits like flexitime or the opportunity to work from home. 

Six steps towards kindness at work

The same Harvard Business Review research also pointed out that if you focus on six different factors, you can create a work culture that is based in kindness and positivity, which will make everyone at said workplace healthier and more productive. These are the six principles it set out as a guideline to follow:

1. Caring for, being interested in, and maintaining responsibility for colleagues as friends.

2. Providing support for one another, including offering kindness and compassion when others are struggling.

3. Avoiding blame and forgiving mistakes.

4. Inspiring one another at work.

5. Emphasising the meaningfulness of the work.

6. Treating one another with respect, gratitude, trust, and integrity.

These six characteristics are related to the idea of emotional intelligence, which is all about understanding and expressing emotions and using empathy when communicating with others. 

As part of our psychological makeup, emotional intelligence, together with personality and IQ, make us who we are. Yet, personality and IQ don’t predict how emotionally intelligent you are. In fact, all three elements are independent and despite what your personality or IQ is like, emotional intelligence can be learned by exploring self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship development. 

When people in a positive workplace are more emotionally intelligent, they tend to be kinder to one another. Not only are workers healthier and happier in a kind work environment, it makes good business sense as HR spends less time on resolving conflicts. 

If you’re ready to explore ways of making kindness part of your work culture, explore how you can build emotional intelligence, which is one of the biggest indicators of success, happiness and satisfaction at work.


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