In the cut-throat world of business, it’s easy to consider kindness a weakness, rather than a strength. After all, when you think about highly successful business people (like Lord Alan Sugar, for example) kindness and niceness may not be the first traits that spring to mind.
It’s a common misconception that you must be tough to be a strong leader. You might fear employees or colleagues mistaking your kindness for being soft, and see you as a pushover, otherwise. But, can you really keep your team on their toes by walking all over them and creating an atmosphere of fear? Quite the opposite may be true, with CABA research highlighting that poor people management, such as being harsh or humiliating, hinders productivity – nearly a 3rd of employees (28%) even say they believe they could do a better job than their bosses. Being kind and respectful is key to this; 1 survey even found that most employees would prefer a nice boss over a $5,000 pay rise.
Being a great boss doesn’t mean acting domineering and controlling, despite the fact these are often qualities associated with power and strong leadership. To truly gain the respect of your workforce, it’s important to show strength in other ways, including being kind, empathetic, protective and compassionate. Research by Harvard Business School highlighted that leaders who project warmth – even before establishing their competence – are more effective than those who lead with a stricter approach. Why? Because employees trust someone who is kind.
So, if you’re an employer or manager, how can you be kind without losing your position as a respected authority figure? The wellbeing experts at CABA offer these for striking a positive balance:
• Regularly praise good work – but also make clear to your team the standards you expect from them. Progressing your business and surpassing client’s expectations is crucial, so don’t let your employees get complacent
• Offer to help struggling employees, without constantly checking their progress or looking over their shoulders
• Be likeable, friendly and treat your team, without losing sight of the fact that you’re the boss. Be respectfully distant, but approachable if they need you and tackle difficult issues fairly
• Prioritise boosting the morale and confidence of your team – but also hold individuals accountable when you have to
• Welcome your employees’ ideas and suggestions – but be honest with them when their input is impractical or unachievable
• Focus more on solving problems than blaming individuals for mistakes – but never shy away from difficult conversations when necessary
• Never lose your temper – but you can express your anger calmly and respectfully
Once you show greater kindness at work, here are some of the outcomes you can expect:
Being kind naturally makes you happier because it releases feel-good chemicals in the brain called dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin. If employers and employees are more positive, the workplace becomes a warmer environment that people actively look forward to joining each day. And positivity leads to increased creativity and focus.
Kindness is contagious, especially when practiced by those in authority, with research suggesting that employees are prone to emulating the actions of their leaders. If a manager shows kindness to their employee, that employee may, in turn, show compassion for their co-worker – and so on. This ripple effect can help build more meaningful connections across the team.
A respectful work environment motivates employees, making them feel more enthusiastic and satisfied in their jobs. Instead of acting militant or overburdening their workload, promote a healthy work-life balance so they feel physically and mentally energised. An animated, cohesive workforce improves performance and productivity.
You’ll become a better you
There’s an adage that people don’t leave organisations, they leave their bosses. Exhibiting negative traits in a ruthless, radical management style will only lower morale and deter your employees. So, treat others as you wish to be treated. Look to inspire your workforce. In turn, your self-esteem will flourish if you feel your team are developing positive, proactive attitudes or praising your efforts.
You have the authority to create the workforce you want. To nurture a happy, productive team, show empathy over exasperation, act caring not callous and be resolute without being radical or ruthless. With a kind, fair approach, you’ll be the manager people feel motivated by, continue to work for and aspire to become.
By Kelly Feehan, Service Director at CABA.