Despite the uncertain times we live in and the bad news we watch daily on our screens, we live in a world where kindness is all around us, with women receiving, giving, and seeing more kindness than men. That’s one of the findings of The Kindness Test by the University of Sussex, the world’s largest psychological study in which 60,000 people from 144 countries took part last summer.
Other key findings from the study show that overall people think kindness has declined in their lifetime, but two-thirds of those studied think the global pandemic has specifically made people kinder. Kindness is
often seen in the home, medical settings, workplaces, green spaces and in shops but it is most valued in the home and workplace, medical and education settings.
So if we are seeing more kindness in the workplace, what if anything can we do to encourage it, harness it, and of course give and receive it?
From my own experience I have certainly noticed that people were kinder during the pandemic and as a business leader it is always worth remembering that a few kind words can make a massive difference to someone’s day, week, month, or life in general. I’m sure we all remember the kind words spoken to us early in our careers which we have carried with us, perhaps putting us at ease as someone did for me once as a nervous 21 year old. My boss laughed with me after I had accidently broken his favourite propelling pencil, and his kindness broke the ice and set the tone for a very productive working relationship that lasted for many years.
Appreciating people, recognising their strengths, weaknesses, vulnerability, and giving them the confidence to express a need allows us to be kind and to have a positive impact on others, especially those we work with. But, there is a but ...kindness doesn’t mean being so accommodating to one person that
this adversely impacts on another, and this is where business leaders need to manage kindness so that it is fair and equitable for all.
In some of the conversations I have had about kindness recently, some people have suggested that paradoxically the pandemic has made some of their work colleagues and friends more self-centred as well as kind! With no scientific evidence to back this up I can only reflect on my own thoughts on why this might be. Quite simply values are changing in the workforce. For many employees it is not just about promotion and pay prospects, they want a job which is fairly rewarded financially, but also allows them a work/life balance. Agile working and achieving a balance in their homelife are more important now. Work is quite simply no longer the only priority for many people and employers need to get used to that.
But what lessons can employers learn from kindness and a change in their approach? I think they can learn a lot and it is something that can also add significant value to a business.
For example, if you are genuinely kind and consistent with your employees, you will be encouraging the same values and empowering those employees to behave in that same way to others – your customers, your clients, your suppliers etc. This translates to better quality of work, and better service and from our experience a job done well is one that people will be happy to pay a little more for. It also brings better retention of staff and customer loyalty, more personal recommendations, and a stronger brand identity. Ultimately, you will be creating greater value in your business. So, kindness is a two way street – by giving you also gain a lot.
I’m hoping some kind words will help to encourage the young people that we will be meeting in the coming weeks through Dare to Dream, Adur and Worthing Council and the Love Local Jobs Foundation’s One Stop Youth Employability Hub. We are all working in partnership to deliver the Dare to Dream programme for a cohort of year 9 and 10 and 18-24 year olds at the beginning of their career.
Dare to Dream is an inspirational mentoring programme which challenges young people to change the way they think, giving them the confidence to fulfil their potential. It is a great initiative and one which is important to help people gather the necessary skills such as self-awareness, mindset, gratitude, resilience, teamwork, and employability to build a successful career.
And whatever success looks like to them, whatever the industry or sector they choose, I will also be championing kindness in my role as a mentor, as a quality to have, give, share, and encourage in others. There will be more on this theme in the next edition…