Yesterday was World Kindness Day. Kindness at work is a key to building a happier workforce. What I love about this idea is that it is both intuitive AND supported by tons of research.
Kindness Builds High-Quality Connections
Jane Dutton researches Positive Organizational Scholarship and cofounded the Center for Positive Organizations in 2002. She talks about high-quality connections on this podcast. A high-quality connection is a short-term interaction with someone that leaves you feeling positive and energized.
It’s those moments you share with a colleague (or whoever) that maybe you don’t know very well, but you exchange a look or share a few comments that leave you feeling that this is a kindred spirit – that this person gets it – that this person gets you.
Hopefully, you share moments like this with friends and loved ones; Dutton’s research focuses on the idea that we all can share these moments with people who are just acquaintances and that those moments are hugely important in advancing our own happiness, and by extension the happiness within the workplace.
On the podcast, Dutton states,
A single encounter with another individual, where people in that moment feel seen, feel known, experience mutual regard, that can fortify people and be an antidote against the loneliness.
The more positive emotions colleagues feel at work, the more they feel committed to their coworkers and to the organization.
My High-Quality Connection Reflection
Learning about Dutton’s work on high-quality connections reminded me of an article I read ages ago, when one of my daughters was still in daycare. The article reported on a study that had found that lower-income parents whose kids attended a daycare center tended to have more resources and a more positive outlook, and that one cause of this was found to be the loose, informal acquaintance relationships parents developed with each other. (This is all from my memory as I can’t find the article now – but here’s a piece on the importance of acquaintances from the same time period.)
The article has stuck with me over all these years because it precipitated important self-reflections: That one reason I loved my daycare center was that I got to see the same parents nearly every day, people I spent hardly any time with, yet I felt a kinship with them – we all juggled working and parenting and relied on the fantastically talented and knowledgeable staff to help raise our kids. I trusted these people – the other parents – yet I barely knew them. Most days, picking my daughter up from daycare was the highlight of my day. It was not only that sweet moment of reunification and learning how her day had been spent; it was also getting to see the same parents and exchanging pleasantries – simple moments of everyday kindness.
Kindness at Work
When you think about kindness at work, it’s as important to think about fostering these simple, everyday connections as it is to build structural policies around kindness (example of the latter: having a policy of providing paid time off for employees who volunteer with a local nonprofit they care about). The more you share kindness, the more you build high-quality connections.
No matter your job title or position in the organization, no matter whether you work from home or at an office or in a remote satellite location – have the power to brighten someone else’s day with a simple act like:
Smiling and making eye contact as you pass by people.
Asking “How are you?” and waiting for them to answer.
Telling someone when you think they did a great job.
Making coffee for the office, buying a coworker coffee, or sending someone a gift card to cover the cost of a latte. (Or tea, or soda, or cookies… fun nourishment.)
Leave a sticky note that says something simple like, “hey you’re doing great here!” on a coworker’s desk – or as a Slack message or email.
The Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute has more ideas for kind acts.
The more we all share these small moments of kindness, the more each of our workplaces become happier places to be.
Need more ideas about how to implement kindness at work? Just ask us!