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Kindness is Power. Too Bad Companies Don't Get That.

Image of three coworkers working on strategy. Woman in center is wearing glasses and a red shirt with white hearts all over it. She is pointing to a flip chart pad and smiling at her  female coworker.  The female coworker has her face turned away from the camera and is looking at the other woman. In the background is a man with a beard and glasses. He is looking at the woman in the center.  Photo courtesy of gpointstudio for Freepik.

Yesterday was Pink Shirt Day in Canada. This day is observed across the country by the wearing of pink shirts. The day calls attention to bullying and the harm it causes. It’s of special interest to children in schools nation-wide, but there are lessons in the day for business as well.

The theme, this year, for Pink Shirt Day is “Kindness is Power”. What a strong message this sends for everyone—at school, home, or work. Kindness, indeed, has power.

Image of Pink Shirt Day Kindness Is Power shirt by Francis Home Sr. Coast Salish. Shirt has an image of an eagle forming a heart,.

Being kind to employees and showing respect for what they do is just the human thing to do. Having said that, humanity is often low on the leadership strategy lists of organizations. Employees all over the world cite being treated with respect as the #1 most important thing to their work. Yet, more than half of employees surveyed report they don’t get respect from their leaders.

It’s a shame, really, because those that feel respected for the work they do and the knowledge they possess report 56% better health and well-being, 1.72 times more trust and safety, 89% more enjoyment and job satisfaction, and 1.26 times more meaning and satisfaction. Those who feel respected are 55% more engaged and, if you’ve followed my posts at all, you’ll know that’s a big deal. Engagement leads to better work quality, improved productivity and customer satisfaction, fewer safety incidents, reduced absenteeism and turnover, and increased revenue. All great reasons to focus on respect.

Interestingly, companies are willing to throw money at recognition programs and engagement surveys, but they’re not willing to address the factors that actually impact employee engagement. Showing respect doesn’t cost anything. Well, nothing by time and effort.

A recent study asked 125 employees why they behave badly. Over 60% say they don’t have the time to be nice. Umm… what? It takes no more time to be nice than to be rude. In fact, being rude often leads to arguments or pushback, which takes even more time to unsnarl. Managers tell me all the time they don’t have time for one-on-one conversations, yet it’s been proven time and time again this is the path to engagement. So why does this happen? Perhaps this is the reason: 25% of people claim they don’t have a role model for respect in their organization, they’re just behaving like their leaders. Sigh…

“Employees are less creative when they don’t feel respected, and many get fed up and leave,” says Porath. “About half deliberately decrease their effort or lower the quality of their work. And incivility damages customer relationships. Our research [cited here] shows that people are less likely to buy from a company with an employee they perceive as rude, whether the rudeness is directed at them or at other employees.” - Christine Porath

Most of the time people don’t realize how their unkind words and tones of voice affect others. It’s often not super evident, but it shows up with reduced productivity, employee satisfaction, and customer satisfaction. In time, that leads to employees leaving, along with the customers. And that means less revenue—always bad news, and a lesson for companies that put profit before people.

Respect is tied to how leaders make a person feel. The person in any organization with the most influence over making people feel respected (or not) is the manager. The path to making respect happen is through connection and appreciation. It’s a fundamental human need to feel heard and understood, and managers are in an ideal position to ensure their people feel this way.

It all comes down to care, and communication—and making that a business priority.

Of course, business leaders don’t have to take my word for it. They can choose to carry on with disrespect if they like. However, that comes at a cost. Experiments show that even just observing incivility will lead to reductions in performance. It causes outcomes to falter by about 50%. Creativity is stifled, problem-solving is slowed, and attention to information is reduced. Nearly everybody who witnesses unkindness, or is a victim of it themselves, responds in a negative way. And this chips away at the bottom line.

Leaders need to be role models for civility, and they need to train their managers to be civil and kind as well. There is, indeed, power in kindness.


Laura Sukorokoff is the Chief People Maximizer at C-Change Learning and Development. She believes passionately in the power of managers to change business for the better.

Learn more about soft skills training for your managers. Check out the programs offered by C-Change Learning for new and existing managers. All are built on a foundation of RESPECT.

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