Every February, we show our loved ones we care about them with special days dedicated to our Valentines and Galentines. Why not extend that attitude to our workplaces and share our appreciation for our wonderful bosses and colleagues? As conversations around mental health and overall wellbeing become increasingly prevalent in the corporate world, it makes sense to consider the role that kindness plays in cultivating a positive and safe culture at work.
Committing to being kind at work benefits us in our workplaces and beyond. When we receive praise, recognition, and compliments, we feel more fulfilled in our role and committed to our organization. On a more personal level, we experience lower levels of stress and higher levels of overall happiness when we engage in and experience acts of kindness.
Once you start spreading kindness, you’ll probably notice a ripple effect of others joining in, too. Make kindness contagious in your workplace:
1. Lead by example
Spearheading change at work usually starts from the top down. Leaders play a crucial role in setting the tone of an organization’s culture. When leaders offer praise and compliments to their employees, other team members may pick up on those gestures and continue to pay it forward. Research shows that kindness is contagious, so those who receive a kind act will pass it on – and usually to someone completely new.
You can start a chain of kindness no matter where you sit on an organizational chart. It truly only takes one person to alter their thinking and behavior before a ripple effect begins to slowly take place. Once others experience the positive effects of receiving professional kindnesses, they’ll likely feel inspired to adjust their own behavior and the organization enjoys a more positive work culture, experiences stronger relationships, and increased trust.
2. Recognize your colleagues and peers
Compliments and praise don’t only have to come from your boss or supervisor. Take notice of when your coworkers excel on a task or make a positive impact and make a point to recognize their hard work and valuable contributions. Expressing appreciation to your coworkers with sincere compliments will strengthen your relationship and build a kind and supportive work culture. Plus, giving compliments is just as powerful to our brains as receiving them.
When expressing gratitude or providing praise, strive to dig deeper than just a “good job” or “thank you.” The more specific your acknowledgement the better. You might also consider what medium of appreciation your recipient prefers based on their social style. An extravert might prefer public praise while an introvert would enjoy a personalized note much more.
3. Engage in random acts of kindness
Performing random acts of kindness can be as effective as expressing praise and recognition regularly. Being kind benefits both the individual performing the act of kindness and the receiver of it. People who engage in altruistic behavior experience higher levels of happiness as a result of an increase in the production of serotonin and reduced stress, lower blood pressure, and less anxiety.
No matter how seemingly small of a gesture, you might just make someone’s day by performing an act of kindness. Some of our favorites include asking someone how they really are and actively listening when they answer, holding the door open, sending flowers or a small gift on birthdays or work-iversarys, bringing in snacks to share, and celebrating big and small wins. When you see someone being kind, acknowledge their positive contribution to the workplace. This shows your appreciation and will encourage others to get involved, too.
4. Demonstrate a willingness to help
Make frequent check-ins with your team a habit. This way you can learn how everyone is doing, in and out of work, in addition to the progress they’re making on various tasks. If you hear that one of your colleagues feels overwhelmed by a large workload or upcoming deadline, offer some help and support. Maybe you can bring them lunch, take an item off their to-do list, or tag-team writing that proposal. Lending a listening ear and providing a safe space to talk can help alleviate stress, too.
You can go one step further by learning each other’s workstyles and using that to help identify when someone feels overwhelmed. Organize a discussion around what situations cause individuals stress and the behaviors they might exhibit when they feel stressed. This way you can preemptively pitch in to provide assistance as soon as you notice those signs.
5. Treat everyone with respect
We all bring different experiences and perspectives to the table at work. Embracing diversity – of race, ethnicity, religion, personality, age, sexual orientation – creates opportunities for innovation when we allow everyone’s voice to be heard and welcome every contribution. Everyone should feel like their ideas, skills, and talents add value to the workplace. We can achieve that by celebrating differences and acknowledging hard work and contributions.
Remember to actively listen when someone offers up an idea or provides feedback. This means that you’re paying close attention to what the speaker is saying, rather than waiting for your turn to chime in. Your body language, making eye contact, and using nonverbal cues like nodding your head, demonstrate that you’re following along. This ensures that everyone feels like their ideas are valuable.
Making a habit of practicing kindness at work will significantly improve the quality of our work and personal lives. We hope that you’ll see the positive effects of being kind when you start implementing it into your workplace culture!