Workplace Wisdom

Kindness is a Competitive Advantage

Here’s the scenario: quiet house, dark bedroom, the beginning of another jam-packed hectic day. “Sweetie Pie,” you say, “it’s time.” And for one reason or another, whether this is the typical morning routine or something quite out of the ordinary, your kid just doesn’t want to get up. With tenacity.

The great likelihood is that the child will end up on the bus at the right time, even by the skin of her teeth, because you are big and powerful and she is small and vulnerable. This is true even if you are only 5’2” and-a-half and she is a savvy tween standing almost eye-to-eye. The way you set her day in motion counts: in her mood, in her experience of you as a parent, in her developing understanding of the necessity of education, of scheduling, of the value of sleep. But that’s not all. She learns about the way people are supposed to be treated and the sort of treatment to expect from others.

And so do you. You can look at the way you wake up your kid as emblematic of your interactions in general, including in the workplace. What is your practice when an interaction is a challenge, even a struggle? On just one behavioral axis: you can be kind, or you can be mean. You know which I recommend, and I’m going to back up that preference with 5 completely practical reasons that are not about “being a better person”. Kid, or colleague, or vendor, it’s all the same. Kindness is a competitive advantage.

Let Kindness Set You Up for Success

  1. You can strive for great results. Being kind doesn’t mean that anything goes. You can still be strict, demanding, and hold everyone, including yourself, to the highest standard possible. It just means you’re not being harsh or hurtful, even to protect yourself or your positions. It actually gives you the leeway to give someone a kick in the seat of the pants, because kindness is always about what the other person needs, not about how you happen to be feeling at that moment.
     
  2. You create conditions that permit others to do better. It’s easier to avoid micromanaging if you’re kind, because kindness includes respect for the other’s worth, and true respect means you’re less likely to be controlling or dictatorial — although you may offer help and support. “I know you can do it!” is a more effective nudge than “what’s the matter with you, why aren’t you doing it?!”
     
    When you encourage and trust others to do what they think is right, then when they make a mistake, it’s only a mistake. It’s true you may have to do a little recovery, but it doesn’t have to involve any victims. Nobody comes to work to be treated badly; very few people come to work planning to ruin their self-image, their reputation, or their day; too many of them can get that kind of thing at home.
     
  3. Kindness helps people face reality. It gives you a way to move toward someone gently, so instead of running away or striking out, they can cope with the tough, actual facts. You get to meet people where they are — which gives you a shot at getting them where they need to be.
     
  4. Kindness is the equivalent of a loyalty program! It proves that whatever you’re asking for, it’s not just about you — it’s also about them. And in these strange economic times, you’re likely to retain a higher proportion of good workers when other opportunities start to open up.
     
  5. Kindness de-escalates conflict and therefore acts as a preventative against your own potential loss of control. It adds to your sense of natural authority because it creates a base of strength and self assurance. And you feel better without leftover emotional mess that needs to be swept away — or under the rug of your psyche.

(And yes, we made the bus.)

Onward and upward,

LK

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