Kindness in the SG Workplace
November 13th is celebrated annually by the United Nations as “World Kindness Day”. This year, with COVID-19 infections still resurging in many parts of the world, it is especially poignant for us to be mindful of the special place that we accord kindness – in our hearts. This is where all lovingkindness begins, and unlike the scarce resources on our planet, this source of kindness from our hearts will never run out.
So why is it so often difficult to be kind at our workplaces? The quick answers are well known to us– concerns with struggles to meet the bottom line, deadlines, fears from loss of income, anxieties from uncertainty – in short, we prioritise these “bigger”problems than worry about being kind to others.
WHY BE KIND?
Kindness is not just about benefiting other people with our compassionate gestures, pleasing others and being nice. We all want to be happy and nobody wants to suffer – that includes ourself. Yet, we don’t always act in the best interest of ourselves or others.
“Kindness can be beneficial for the bottom line,’’ notes Rasmus Hougaard and others in their much-acclaimed book One Second Ahead. When they considered the business drivers for a global management consulting firm, they observed that organizations hired consultants for their knowledge and skills but for these to translate into results, they required effective human interactions.
An explicit intention to be kind to clients enhanced the effectiveness of work and the ability of clients to implement recommendations. It made meetings with clients easier, more productive and even more enjoyable. Crucially, they found kindness to have a significant impact on themselves as professionals, colleagues, friends and family members.
In Singapore, when we think back to our good times shared with past and present colleagues, we often recall feeling grateful to those persons who came to our rescue or helped us with kindness.
These incidents are as etched in our memory (sometimes even more so) as celebrations of team or individual success! Let’s not forget that we may not be where we are today without the kindness and support of friends and supervisors at our workplace, as well as family members during our times of need.
BE WISELY KIND TO YOURSELF
“Kindness can be one of the most effective ways of looking after yourself,” said Rasmus. “As the direct neurological opposite to unpleasant states of mind, kindness doesn’t just pacify negative tendencies – rather, it pulls them up by the roots.”
There is now scientific evidence to show the positive effect of kindness on our mental and physical well-being. When we are kind, our immune system is stronger. We become more creative, we have better social relationships, thus we increase our enjoyment of life. The opposite of kindness – anger and frustration – generate a greater risk of heart attack, chronic headaches and have also been shown to shorten life spans.
Martin Seligman, a positive psychology researcher, has even noted that the impact of performing friendly acts toward other people can be measured in your own level of happiness for up to eight weeks after the event!
Recently, Jane (not her real name) received a surprise gift package while she was working from home.When she opened it, she found a nice pair of speakers for her computer which her boss had sent with an accompanying letter expressing personal thanks. He appreciated how much every one in their sales team had worked very hard over the past six months, and that the gift of the speakers was a small gesture to express appreciation as well as acknowledged the team’s record performance this year, given the difficult adjustments every one made to the COVID-19conditions. Jane’s immediate reaction was to note this kind act of appreciation; she could feel the pain and discomfort of the stress built up over the past six months start to melt away.
If you are in a position to do likewise in your present work circumstances, you can also do the same. But before we are kind to others, we need to be kind to ourselves. If we are not wisely kind to ourselves, it’s very difficult to be genuinely kind to others. Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes or for circumstances beyond your control. Treat yourself with some understanding and respect, then it becomes possible to be truly kind to others.
We all have anger and kindness: it’s up to us to decide which one to nurture.