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Opinion: The overlooked superpower

www.telanganatoday.com | October 26, 2023

Small gestures such as buying them a cup of coffee are extremely effective in making an individual feel valued

An encouraging, supportive and empathetic work environment is every employee’s dream. The power of kindness is often overlooked and forgotten in a world of social media and anonymity where judgement and hatred have become so normalised and widespread. Workplaces today are becoming increasingly stress-inducing. With the incessant hustle culture, lay-offs and lower pay for employees, there is a sharp rise in mental health concerns and even more concerning is the work dissatisfaction among employees. Research shows that workers are more likely to develop a positive attitude towards work and experience less burnout if they feel heard, understood and safe in their work environment. Kindness then becomes a necessity in today’s workplaces.

One of the under-discussed but extremely necessary qualities of a leader is empathy and kindness towards their employees. Not only does it keep the employees happy and satisfied, but it has also proven to be good for business. According to a study by the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO), employees are likely to show increased productivity and higher quality of work if they feel supported and respected in their workplace. Small acts of kindness by co-workers and leaders are beneficial for work and emotional well-being. Not only that, it also increases employee loyalty and engagement thus creating an overall productive and positive work environment with healthy competition between all.

Positive Outcome

The best thing with kindness is that no matter the act, it always produces a positive outcome and impact for both the recipient and the giver. However, factors such as a negative workspace, high job stress and maladaptive leadership can negatively impact kindness and can be a barrier to promoting, encouraging, as well as practising kindness and compassion.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” said Maya Angelou. Making a person feel seen, valued, supported and heard need not be overly complex or require an utterly grandiose act. Rather, with kindness, usually small is still pretty big.

Small gestures such as smiling at your co-workers, saying a thank you, or buying them a cup of coffee are extremely effective in making an individual feel valued at the workplace (Bryan Robinson, 2023). Honest and constructive feedback, providing necessary support, respecting their work-life balance, recognising and acknowledging achievements, as well as basic communication skills such as active listening, empathy and compassion are also highly effective in maintaining a positive work culture.

Often, kindness at the workplace is like a domino effect. It takes one person to begin this chain. Therefore, leaders or people in hierarchical positions must lead by example. Not only does this communicate the organisation’s core values but also encourages, motivates and inspires employees to model this behaviour.

According to a study, kindness was a bigger predictor of employee happiness at the workplace than income, and workers who had a kind and empathetic leader were likely to go the extra mile in performing their tasks. This shows us how intentionality in your communication at work, and seeing your co-workers as an individual, acknowledging them, and practising empathy can go a long way.

Be Kind to Yourself

But kindness begins with oneself first. To be able to truly be empathetic, kind and compassionate, it is important to begin being kind to your own self. A burnt-out individual will find themselves unable to go the extra mile to listen to their colleague or empathise with them. Emotional turmoil can reduce our ability to be kind. Therefore, practising self-care and being intentional with oneself can help us be more present at the workplace as well.

Moroever, according to researchers, individuals dealing with emotional and mental health issues, especially depression and stress-related problems can be helped with simple acts of kindness. It reduces feelings of isolation and loneliness, worthlessness, helplessness and anxiety, and promotes mental well-being, belonging and a sense of community.

Research has shown that kindness is often undervalued and, thus lesser seen at the workplace as its impact is undermined. However, we know now through research and anecdotal incidents that the power of kindness is more strongly felt by the receiver than the one showing kindness.

The best leaders are, in fact, the ones who lead with kindness rather than by force. Jacinda Ardern, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, with her “politics of kindness” proves how kindness is not a weakness, but rather the biggest strength a leader and an individual can possess. At a press conference, while announcing the first Covid lockdown, Ardern placed a special emphasis on the word “kindness” by saying, “be strong, be kind”. Her exceptional leadership style, being the youngest woman prime minister in history, is one that is synonymous with kindness, compassion and leading by example. Her value-based approach to leadership makes her one of the most competent leaders in power and she has time and again emphasised in her speeches the importance and power of kindness in fighting battles of isolation, racism and more.

Important Value

“The bottom line is that kindness is one of the most important values a company can prioritise, and we have shown conclusively the clear, significant impact it can have on organisational success,” states Jaclyn Lindsey, chief executive officer at kindness.org.

Kindness, although relatively difficult to quantify, is extremely beneficial, more so at the workplace during a time when psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression are on the rise. Stress, as we know it, is increasing drastically in corporate and non-corporate jobs, thus negatively impacting the physical and mental health of employees. This, combined with burnout and an increasingly concerning and problematic rise in lay-offs, highlights the sheer need for the overlooked and undervalued effects of kindness at the workplace.

Promoting a culture of kindness, empathy and compassion toward oneself and others can foster an environment of positivity, increased productivity, loyalty and job satisfaction while improving the emotional well-being of individuals suffering from mental health disorders, particularly mood disorders. Remember, an act of kindness, however big or small goes a long way.

This article has been co-authored by Ishita Malhotra, Undergraduate Student, FLAME University, and Prof. Moitrayee Das, Faculty of Psychology, FLAME University.

(Source:- https://telanganatoday.com/opinion-the-overlooked-superpower )