6 Jul, 2022
By Dan Dwyer
Organisational psychologist, Adam Grant recently cheekily tweeted:
“Pessimist: The glass is half empty!
Optimist: The glass is half full!
Proactive person: Actually, the glass is full. I refilled it while you were arguing.
Over the past few weeks in our meetings we have been discussing what kindness means practically in our organisation. We are not alone in realising how necessary kindness is, as many businesses and organisations seek to adjust to this whole new world we find ourselves in.
Harvard Business Review has also acknowledged that during COVID-19 showing kindness to ourselves and to others required more deliberate effort when we are physically distant. And though we are not as “physically distant” these days—how we do and experience the workplace is different.
In my opinion, a key component of kindness is authenticity. If it’s not genuine, it’s not kind. Behavioural Health expert Steve Siegle describes kindness as “harbouring a spirit of helpfulness, as well as being generous and considerate, and doing so without expecting anything in return.”
In law, there is a rule called the “eggshell skull rule”. The rule basically says that it doesn’t matter whether someone’s skull is as thick as steel or as thin as an eggshell, the one who strikes is responsible for the outcome; “A tortfeasor must take his victim as he finds him.” My reflection on this has been that impact, not intent, is vital. As working from home became the norm, at times the ability to hear the tone and inflection of our fellow colleague’s voices through an email or fully grasp their body language across a screen impacted our social interactions.
The study Harvest Business Review engaged with demonstrated that the everyday, unplanned acts of kinds that are incidental and that we would usually encounter in-person, such as an informal congratulations at the office water cooler, has impacted productivity. In reviewing data on productivity, researchers have found that kindness reduces employee burnout and absenteeism and improves employee wellbeing.
A culture of generosity with kindness in an organisation such as gratitude and praise for a task done well has tremendous domino effects such as increasing and fostering a team’s resilience and output one ground-breaking study found.
Research by Deloitte defining which factors substantially contribute to an organisation’s success may surprise some managers and team leaders. In this study they shared, “a significantly higher percentage of executives identified ‘a clearly defined business strategy’ (76%) rather than ‘clearly defined and communicated core values and beliefs’ (62%)” as most important to a company’s success. This was contrasted by their team members and employees who instead believed “a clearly defined business strategy” (57%) and “clearly defined and communicated values and beliefs” (55%) were more pertinent to an organisation’s success.
Kindness is not just a great value in an organisation, it has clear, measurable and demonstrable individual benefits. The Mayo Institute outline that kindness impacts both the mind and body and increases life expectancy! Scientists have found that being kind gives a sort of “helper’s high” which can boost oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals in our brain are what give us feelings of satisfaction and wellbeing. When we engage in kind acts, our brains can also release endorphins, which are our body’s natural pain killer. However, to continuously reap those physiological benefits, kindness must be incorporated as a practice, rather than a once-off action. “Acts of kindness have to be repeated,” Dr IsHak a Health Sciences Professor of Psychiatry says. He says, “Biochemically, you can’t live on the 3-to-4-minute oxytocin boost that comes from a single act. That’s why kindness is most beneficial as a practice.”
The pandemic and coming in and out of consequent lockdowns have affected us in a multiplicity of ways. Perhaps we are more agitated than we realise. Maybe someone in our life is carrying more than they have shared. So, what does kindness look like for us as a team? Kindness could look like weekly points of connection where we check in with ourselves and each other about how we are really doing. It could also be spending some time asking for feedback on the impact of our actions towards others, for better or for worse. As a wider team, we have seen that simple acts like a short walk in the afternoon, a Teams message, or a delivery of flowers to someone on the team who is doing it tough, can go a long way. It is no surprise that this year’s international Kindness Day’s theme held on 13 November is #MakeKindnessTheNorm.
Our practical kindness to ourselves and others in this time could make the world of difference.
Dan Dwyer is our Chief Executive Officer at Fresh Hope Communities