The case for kindness: How and why we should be more kind at work

For over a year now, many of our “workplaces” have turned into a handful of scheduled online interactions. We often lose out on the small moments of appreciation, like a simple “thank you so much!” while bumping into a colleague in the lunchroom who has helped you with a project, or receiving a pat on the back from your boss.

Now that these friendly, social interactions have been extracted from our work lives, it can be more difficult to be happy at work. However, there may be a simple solution: Kindness.

The benefits of kindness. Intentionally giving a few simple words of kindness to a coworker has many benefits, the obvious one being the positive reaction from those who receive them. Recognition at work promotes well-being and reduces burnout, plus studies show that praise and compliments boost employees’ self-esteem, improve self-evaluations, and trigger positive emotions.

A less obvious benefit is that practicing kindness can make you feel more fulfilled. When we spend money on others or volunteer our time and energy for a good cause, our sense of well-being and overall happiness improves, and because we are involved in something that is bigger than ourselves, we find more meaning in our lives. Being kind will also be noticed by others which will improve your reputation and your own self-perception. In fact, new studies suggest that giving compliments makes you even happier than receiving them.

A big contributing factor to this sense of satisfaction that giving a compliment is often associated with social connection, something we have been deprived of lately. Giving a compliment requires more interaction between us and those we want to compliment—we have to take into consideration their mental state, behavior, personality, thoughts, and feelings. When we think about others, we feel more connected to them.

Despite all the personal positives of doling out compliments, people are still reluctant to give them. This is because of the common conception that people will be bothered or uncomfortable when receiving a compliment, but we should rest assured that the opposite is in fact more likely true.

Bringing kindness to work. If you are in a leadership position in your workplace, try to lead by example. If you give compliments and praise to your employees, then your team will be more likely to imitate this behavior to “normalize” kindness within your work culture.

A practical way to do this is to carve out some time during your online meetings for a “kindness round.” This involves team members freely acknowledging and appreciating the work of others. Just a few minutes out of the meeting can boost morale and help employees feel more connected to their colleagues.

Showing kindness is a small and simple act that has great psychological benefits. Even if you aren’t a leader in the workplace, you can still lead the kindness movement and help uplift and encourage your peers during a trying time.

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