By Marcel Schwantes, Principle and Founder, Leadership from the Core
In an effort to increase leadership thinking and awareness about the new measures of success, this one may be hard to swallow for some of my readers, but here it goes.
Research on positive organizational scholarship has revealed a powerful weapon for creating happier workplace cultures and more loyal and committed employees who produce better work. It comes down to one word: kindness.
Before I get into the business case for kindness, I have to ask: Why don't we see more kindness at work? Why aren't more decision makers jumping on this bandwagon, if it means leveraging it for business impact and bottom line results? Because the perception of this soft and fuzzy word implies that it's only fit for "doormat" and weak leaders, much like other counterintuitive powerhouse leadership words like empathy, transparency, and vulnerability. And that's a shame.
Upon closer inspection, nothing could be further from the truth than the belief that kindness is not fit for business. Plenty of research suggests that when companies create an environment of kindness lived out daily, they will see a happier workplace and an improved bottom line. Here are some examples.
1. Kindness boosts employee well-being and productivity.
A study conducted by the University of Michigan and Georgia State University found that when employees are friendly and personable and help each other out, and the working atmosphere is pleasant and not fear-based, employees not only provide better customer service on their own accord, but they also develop better relationships at work. In turn, these conditions result in an increase in productivity levels.
2. Kindness's affect on the brain helps improve teamwork.
Judith Glaser, CEO of Benchmark Communications and author of Creating WE, says our brains are actually hard-wired to respond to kindness and trust: "When someone is kind and respectful to us, our brains produce more oxytocin and dopamine, which helps us relax, feel open to others, and be more sharing and cooperative," says Glaser. This is certainly good news for people working in collaborative spaces.
3. Kindness promotes trust across the enterprise.
In PricewaterhouseCoopers's 19th Annual Global CEO Survey, for which 1,409 CEOs in 83 countries were interviewed, it was found that kindness boosts employee commitment to the organization, cuts down on communication barriers, reduces toxic competition among staff, and bolsters relationships with various stakeholders.
4. Kindness fosters learning and innovation.
Research from Bar-Ilan University in Israel and University of Michigan found that empathy and kindness are absolutely critical for creating higher levels of psychological safety to foster innovation. People are much more willing to share information, learn from failure without fear, and create new ideas together when they feel safe in kinder work environments.
5. Kindness increases employee retention and reduces turnover.
Researchers at University of Delaware reviewed more than 70 studies to find three major categories of kindness--fairness, supervisor support, and favorable job conditions--that result in what they call perceived organizational support (POS) on the part of employees. When employees perceive that they are valued for their contribution and that the organization cares about their well-being, they feel a positive obligation to help the organization reach its objectives. In turn, behavioral outcomes of POS include increases in job satisfaction and commitment, higher employee retention, and less absenteeism and turnover.
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