Creating a Culture of Kindness
I came across a children’s book, Have You Filled a Bucket Today?, that brilliantly teaches the impact of kindness. The essence of the story is that everyone carries an imaginary bucket. When you do something kind for others, the resulting good feelings fill both your bucket and theirs. Conversely, when you’re unkind to others, it empties both your bucket and theirs. What a wonderful way for all of us—adults as well as kids—to appreciate the power of kindness!
At work, it’s not always easy to exhibit kindness when you’re stressed. And if your organizational culture is characterized by meanness and nastiness (and if you’re unable to quit and go someplace where people treat each other with respect), developing a thick skin understandably takes priority over kindness.
Fortunately, in most organizations, employees don’t deliberately withhold kindness; they just get caught up in the demands of the day and, in the process, sometimes behave in an unkind manner. Furthermore, employees tend to follow the model set from above, treating each other and their customers the way they’re treated by their superiors. Leaders set the tone for the entire organization, and that means that kindness starts at the top.
Still, if those above you don’t exhibit kindness, you’re not powerless. Whatever level you’re at, you can start to change the culture yourself—or reinforce the culture of kindness, if it already exists. You can do that by leading by example, being as kind as you reasonably can to everyone you interact with. By setting an example, others will start to imitate you. Kindness is contagious.
There are so many ways to exhibit kindness, such as by offering encouragement, doing a favor for a coworker, expressing appreciation when a coworker does a favor for you, offering assistance to someone who could use it, and being respectful and friendly, especially to those subordinate to you. These acts take little or no time and cost nothing.
Other ways of displaying kindness include bringing a cup of coffee to a coworker who needs a boost, offering a helpful suggestion to someone who is struggling, offering praise to a coworker for a job well done, or sending a colleague an article on a book you enjoyed with a “saw this, thought of you” note.
These kinds of things are sometimes referred to as random acts of kindness, but they’re not really random. They are things you deliberately do for others to fill their buckets—and your own.