This is the first entry of a two-part blog series on kindness in the workplace.
The need for kindness in the workplace is a bit of a childish conversation to have, right? If you’re in the workforce, you must have some sort of redeeming qualities that got you past an interview or screening process, where they look at things like how well you get along with others.
But we’re talking about kindness; not interview skills or faking nice to a co-worker.
Niceness vs. Kindness
Let’s elaborate on the difference between being nice and being kind. We are nice to those from whom we would benefit by maintaining a good relationship. The roots of kindness run deeper, sprouting from genuine concern for the well-being of others. As an example, kindness is gently telling someone what they need to hear instead of being nice and telling them what they want to hear. It is a difficult thing to be kind and insincere simultaneously.
Why You Should Care
When we are kind to others, we’re doing good for them, for ourselves, and even sometimes for our companies — the karma of kindness, if you will.
Social Benefits: Other people have lives, and struggles, too
In her blog for the Harvard Business Review, Gill Corkindale brings to light the fact that tragedy can strike anyone at any time, and that colleagues are generally more than willing to support you and let you know they’ve been there too. But it doesn’t take a tragedy to strike up a bond with the person in the office next door.
Growing up, I rarely considered that my schoolteachers had families, hobbies and responsibilities outside of the classroom. Much like my teachers had lives outside of school hours, our colleagues don’t roll out sleeping bags from under their desks to sleep at night then wake up and start working in the morning. They have lives outside of work.
One of the benefits of working in a small office is the intimacy it brings, which acts as an enabler for kindness. At MPD Ventures, we know each other well enough to be able to ask about family members, weekend plans and other personal matters.
Business Benefits: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”
Often accredited to Theodore Roosevelt, this quote basically means we work harder and better for people who we know care about us. We’re more greatly influenced by those who sincerely have our well-being in mind.
Case in Point: Costco Wholesale
Costco Wholesale’s founder and former CEO, Jim Sinegal, is a great example of how showing kindness in the workplace can foster success. Check out the following YouTube video clip from ABC’s 20/20 discussing the secret to Costco’s success, which includes treating employees well.
Though the video is a bit dated, I doubt kindness has gone out of style. Here are Costco’s 2006 stats according to the video:
- 45 million shoppers
- 4th largest retailer in the nation
- $59 billion in annual revenue
- 483 stores: 37 states, 8 countries
Successful? I think so. If you watch the video you’ll learn that in everything he did, Jim Sinegal took care of his employees, known as ambassadors, in addition to his customers. Costco was meant to be a “first-name” company, which is probably why he showed up at his stores wearing a Costco name tag that read “Jim.” He would visit up to 12 Costco locations a day and says, “No manager and no staff in any business feels very good if the boss is not interested enough to come and see them.”
Jim believed in taking care of your employees, evident in that during this time Costco payed higher wages than competitors, had the lowest turnover rate in retail and provided better benefits. To top it off, as CEO, Jim set his salary at $350,000 a year, not wanting to make more than 12 times the wages of an employee “working on the floor.”
That kind of company culture and success is what any good business-person is looking for. How did Sinegal get there with Costco? A big portion of his success is attributed to the kindness he showed the Costco employees by being personable and ensuring they were taken care of.
On a much smaller scale, working at MPD Ventures is the same way. I go to work every morning knowing I am part of a company full of people looking out for me, helping me learn and promoting my success. In fact, one morning I was running late to work, thanks to traffic, and my supervisor texted me to make sure I was okay. In the message she also reminded me not to text and drive.
Maybe employing a little kindness into your professional life won’t make you the next Jim Sinegal or bring your company the success Costco has seen. But maybe you’ll brighten someone’s day or maybe you’ll enjoy going to work a little more in the morning. You don’t know until you try.
In part II of this blog series, we’ll take a look at different ways to implement kindness in the workplace.