Let's face it, having a kind heart or a caring personality isn't what necessarily lands you a great job or gets you promotions. Throughout my advertising and public relations careers, I was never hired because I had a genuine smile and a pleasant demeanor, or at least I was never told.
I didn't hear of someone making senior vice president due to their outstanding levels of kindness. Their late-night hours and multi-million dollar ideas? Yes. But leaving homemade apple tarts in the lunchroom and expressing genuine concern over a colleague's sick relative? Not so much.
Lobby plaques announced awards, meetings consisted of earnings details. An office mate's loving tendencies were typically reserved for the back page of company newsletters, if at all, and usually if there were a tie-in related to an existing account (or the possibility of winning a new one).
Is a Kind Employee a Weak Employee?
Somewhere along the lines, kindness in the workplace became synonymous with being wimpy, unbusiness-like. A kind employee -- one who doesn't drop the F-word at the drop of a dime, talk badly about other colleagues, cheat on their boyfriends in order to climb the corporate ladder, and yes, who makes the occasional batch of cupcakes -- is often viewed as a too-nice individual incapable of going for the gusto and "making it happen." They're sweet and lovely and all, but void of brazen words and arrogant actions, are deemed not quite cut out for the business world.
Too kind is too much to handle for some people. And for those who have the ability to be nice and build business relationships (gasp!), it's hard for many employers to grasp. Apparently, workplace kindness is often viewed as an oxymoron.
But it doesn't have to be. An employee can be kind, well-intentioned and caring and make strides in the workplace. There need not be such cut-and-dry "you're either vindictive or award-winning" or "you're either too nice and a so-so worker" thoughts.
Enough already. Workplace kindness matters.
Making the Case for Workplace Kindness
Speaking from experience, I've often been called "too-nice" by peers and colleagues. So be it. I still provided creative insights during meetings, landed new clients and contributed immensely. And I did it all without a mean bone in my body, by smiling more and complaining less, and trying my best to be nice as often as possible. Unless the vending machine was out of my favorite candy bar, but I digress.
But don't take this for truth just because my kindhearted soul had some positive workplace experiences; kindness in the workplace is even backed by social scientists and other esteemed experts. In a Compassion and Business conference held at Stanford University a couple years back, professionals maintained that showing "companionate love in the workplace" can create powerful leaders, improve emotions that have been drained from burnout, and even increase levels of achievement.
Even self-compassion in the workplace is linked to achieving success. Psychologists on the panel of the aforementioned conference noted that people in the business world tend to avoid self-compassion because they fear it will make them lazy. In the instance of showing compassion to other employees, assumptions abound that the behavior is an indication of weakness. In reality, the panel experts suggested that just the opposite is true: a compassionate employee makes for a good leader who genuinely has the company's best interests at heart.
More recently, Dr. Hyder Zahed wrote about the importance of workplace kindness. He's confident that it's a great way to create an "ideal workplace," saying that "working with a level of friendliness" is beneficial to a company as a whole. He describes teamwork, not talking ill of others, and even suggests engaging in little acts of kindness (such as bringing a colleague a cup of coffee or, *ahem* their favorite candy bar) as ways to create a "culture of loving kindness within our workplaces."
So, enough of the notion that being rude and cold is surefire way to land a promotion, or that a sweet smile and genuine interest in your weekend is a sign of a weak business acumen.
A successful work culture can -- and should -- include more of an emphasis on kindness.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a batch of double fudge chocolate chip cookies to whip up. I hear lots of people I work with enjoy them.