Treating employees right is good for them, for you, and for business
It’s a piece of advice found in everything from religious texts to “Road House.” Treat others the way you’d like to be treated, the Golden Rule says. “Be nice,” Patrick Swayze’s Dalton tells his bouncers charged with keeping the peace at a raucous bar. You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, the old saying goes. But kindness can be lacking in the often cold-hearted, transactional world of business. The old approach may have worked in days gone by, but as we’ve seen with millions of workers leaving their jobs for better opportunities over the last year or so, kindness is good business.
Make Someone’s Day
For what it costs, which is not much beyond a little effort, treating your employees with kindness can pay off in a big way.
“It’s something that maybe we don’t think about, or we take for granted,” Howard H. Prager, executive coach and author of “Make Someone’s Day,” said on the Power Lunch Live webcast with Rhett Power, “but if we can plan for it just a little bit, especially at work. For leaders and managers to do that for their people, the impact that that can have is just tremendous.”
Prager cited former Campbell Soup CEO Doug Conant’s turnaround of the company that included weekly thank-you notes to employees, eventually totaling more than 30,000 notes. The simple act of letting employees know they and their work are appreciated can engender loyalty and boost productivity.
Conversely, treating workers rudely can lower productivity thanks to factors from employees intentionally spending less time and energy on their work to spending time worrying about and avoiding the offending manager to taking their frustrations out on customers, a Harvard Business Review study found.
Kindness has positive effects on the person being nice, as well. In what Prager calls the “boomerang effect,” you get the same mental benefits from treating others well as you get from someone being nice to you.
“When someone says to you, ‘You made my day’ or you can see that in their reaction, you get the same type of neurological excitement that shoots you a dose of endorphins and really provides you that up.”
Prager recommends five steps to making someone’s day a habit. First, is choosing to do it. Second, is observing and seeing where you might be of service. After that, you can determine what’s needed and either just do it if it’s something immediate — helping carry something heavy, for example — or plan to do it if it’s more abstract. Lastly, reflect afterward on what happened and how it made you feel. That will help form the habit of doing it repeatedly.
“As managers and leaders in the workplace, being aware of what our employees, colleagues, and customers need is such an important part of the job,” he said.
Business Case for Kindness
When kindness is a part of your company culture, that actually makes it easier for healthy conflict. Employees know they and their opinions are valued, so they’re not afraid to speak up when something doesn’t seem right to them.
“I’ve seen it so many times with companies I admire where nobody will tell the CEO or founder something they need to hear because they don’t want to be the one to disagree,” Daniel Lubetzky, founder of snack company Kind LLC, told Business Insider. “That’s the moment when mediocrity is going to start seeping into the consciousness of that company.
“Kindness requires honest feedback and honest feedback requires strength, and that strength is much better achieved when you have a culture where people trust each other and know that they mean well toward one another.”
As the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation states in its “Business Case for Kindness,” compassion and inclusion improve business performance by fostering trust within the organization, leading to better hiring practices, heightening employee engagement, fueling learning and innovation, and promoting high-quality service and brand loyalty.
“Companies can consider any size of kindness initiative. Even small investment and kindness campaigns/events of limited duration have proven to be leveraged to have a positive impact on employee perception of the company,” the chamber foundation says.
One such initiative is The Kindness Campaign, dedicated to creating positive, accessible tools to build children’s emotional health at home and in the classroom. Partnering with the likes of Kind LLC, Kendra Scott, Bumble, and AMC, the campaign organizes workshops and other programs to encourage emotional learning in kids and adults. Whatever you choose for your organization, you can start small and work your way up while making a consistent, sincere effort.
“I don’t have all the answers and I don’t always behave the way I’d like to,” Lubetzky told Business Insider. “But it’s the commitment to try to improve that really matters.”
It sounds so simple but eludes so many organizations. And kindness really does bring returns. It’s the Golden Rule for a reason.