Can we teach kindness at work? More and more companies say yes. Even Google recently hired author and mindfulness expert Chade-Meng Tan to teach kindness and gratitude to employees via emotional intelligence training (his official job title? “Jolly Good Fellow”).
The reason is simple: being kind makes money. “Goodness is a competitive advantage in business,” Tan told attendees at a University of Southern California event last month, as quoted in the Forbes article, “Why Happiness Is Sweeping The American Workplace.”
“That sentiment rubs many skeptics the wrong way,” writes Forbes’ Rob Asghar. “Some ‘practical’ people see this goodness-happiness-touchy-feely stuff as a distraction from the hard work of making a profit.”
At the same time, he writes, idealistic people are suspicious of the idea that goodness would play a role in big business’ quest for money.
Asghar continues, “…both sides better get used to it. Happiness and ‘mindful meditation’ and emotional positivity are sweeping the American workplace, from lunchrooms to boardrooms.”
How DO I TEACH Kindness?
Kindness isn’t something you learn out of a textbook or from a teacher at a blackboard. Since we’re hardwired to be kind to each other, kindness comes naturally when we learn to be mindful.
So to teach kindness, you have to teach mindfulness.
A 1973 study at Princeton Theological Seminary demonstrates how our natural inclination to show kindness can be eroded by circumstances. The results of the famed study were so profound that it has become a classic in the field of kindness research.
Researchers told the study group of divinity students to walk one by one to a different building to give a speech. Half were told to deliver a short sermon on the Good Samaritan parable (the biblical story about the man who helps a stranger in distress by the side of the road). The other half were told to talk about jobs for graduates.
Some were told to rush and others were not. As they walked from one building to the other, each passed a man bent over and moaning for help.
Surprisingly, the biggest influence on whether a student would stop and help was how much of a hurry they thought they were in. Contemplating the parable of the Good Samaritan also influenced whether a student would stop, but not to the same extent.
Of those in a hurry, only 10 percent offered help. Meanwhile, 63 percent of those who thought they had extra time stopped to help.
Many who did not stop appeared anxious when they arrived at the second building — conflicted between helping the distressed man and meeting the perceived demands of the experiment.
“The implications here are clear — we are hardwired for empathy and can have the best of intentions — but our stress response can override them,” writes Intentional Workplace blogger Louise Altman.
Slow Down to Get Ahead
“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” — Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism
Don’t make your employees choose between being kind and doing work. As the Good Samaritan study shows, rushed or conflicted people make wrong decisions even when their intentions are good.
In honor of World Kindness Day, coming up on Nov. 13, consider the ways you can teach kindness by making mindfulness part of everyday life at your company. Employees follow management’s lead, so encourage your managers to lead by example.
Get started with these three easy ways to be more mindful and spread kindness at work:
1) Guided meditation
Invite a teacher from a local meditation center or yoga studio to lead a lunch-hour meditation class. For those intimidated by silent meditation, guided meditation is a great place to start.
2) Volunteering together
Volunteering together is a bonding experience that brings employees together for a good cause, whether it’s a one-off event or ongoing commitment. Outside the normal work routine, employees will get to know each other better as people, not just coworkers.
3) Everyday gratitude
Kindness grows wherever people have the opportunity to express gratitude, so encourage everyday gratitude by making it simple for employees to share gratitude with each other.
One easy way to do this is to hang a “gratitude board” in a common area at work, such as a break room.
Lack of time and resources are too often the barriers to sharing gratitude and showing kindness. Lift those barriers. The easier it is to say “thanks,” the more it will happen.
4) Learn the science of gratitude
Invest in understanding the science behind gratitude and you’ll learn how to nurture kindness in the workplace.
Start with gThankYou’s free ebook, “Transform Your Workplace with Gratitude” and share with colleagues. You’ll learn from positive psychology experts just why gratitude is so important and so special. You’ll also learn ways to share gratitude and kindness in the workplace, right away.
Why wait? Download your free guide today and let the kindness shine in! #MakeKindnessTheNorm
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