Ever been told that you need to ‘toughen up’ at work?
Maybe you’ve believed that only the most ruthless leaders get to the top, or that you have to ‘be more aggressive’ to pursue your dreams.
Somewhere along the line, so-called assertiveness became the norm, or even fashionable at work. We’ve all had that one colleague who strikes fear into the heart of any employee – the one who is often revered by senior management as someone who ‘gets things done’.
My question is this – wouldn’t we all get a lot more done if we were just that little bit nicer?
The 9-5 corporate rat race has continually been associated with stress, pressure and a whole lot of backstabbing, and the stereotypical ‘boss from hell’ didn’t just appear out of nowhere. Somewhere, with the rise of the businessman ( and later, the businesswoman), we learnt that to get ahead, our nicer qualities put us at a disadvantage, and we should shelve them in order to maximise career success.
Why kindness matters
We’re all just trying to make it through another day of endless emails, phone calls and meetings, and with so many hours of the week spent at work, the burnout potential is huge. Kindness matters because, quite simply, it changes people’s moods, and has the potential to change your workplace entirely. No one would dread going to work if what was waiting there was compassion and understanding. There’s a belief that for employees to be at their best, the whip needs to be cracked, but this is something that has been proved wrong time and time again.
“Each one of us is like that butterfly in the Butterfly Effect. And each tiny move toward a more positive mindset can send ripples of positivity through our organizations our families and our communities.”
– Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage
Kindness matters because, if, instead of sending that passive aggressive email or snapping at a colleague, we took a few seconds to try and empathise with them, we would most likely realise that a negative reaction isn’t justified. Think about the worst day you’ve ever had at work – if you had been surrounded by compassionate people, would it have turned out differently?
Aggression is not the same thing as assertiveness, and nastiness won’t help you get the job done quicker – being empathetic will.
Kindness doesn’t equal weakness
In our working lives, we might aspire to strong, more confident, assertive or respected, but never to be more kind. There seems to be an anxiety around kindness, in that it somehow makes you weaker. ‘Everyone walks all over her’, ‘He can’t say no to anything’ – sound familiar? Kindness does not mean being taken advantage of. Listen to your emotions, say no when you need to and be honest about how you’re feeling. Be kind to yourself too.
We all become defensive when we feel vulnerable, and once we understand this, we can react to other’s negative emotions in a more productive way.
“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.”
– Kahlil Gibran
Kindness can make you better at your job
As someone who works in marketing, kindness is a huge asset to have at work. Marketing and advertising is all about getting under the skin of your customers and thinking about what will resonate with them and what won’t. We ponder over their thoughts, feelings and emotions and tailor our actions accordingly. What we often don’t do is consider the thoughts, feelings and emotions of our colleagues.
This doesn’t just apply to the marketing industry. Being kind to one another means that we can become more of a unit – a community working towards the same goal without any manipulation or ulterior motives. A few kind words have the power to change someone’s whole day – and many kind words have the power to change a workplace.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”