The origin of the English proverb, ‘Kill them with kindness,’ dates back to the mid-1500’s. In today’s workplace, ‘Capitalize on kindness,’ would be much more appropriate. Here are four reasons why.
1. Inspires employees. The Zenger Folkmanstudy, which tracked 51,836 leaders, showed that the most likable leaders who expressed warmth were also the most effective. Leaders who act as a coach or mentor instead of a dictator or micro-manager help foster creativity and innovation. Employees are less likely to curb creativity if they feel the freedom and support to innovate. Should they report to a leader who tends to respond in a highly critical or angry manner, the employees will be less inclined to ask for help, take risks and trust their bosses.
Kind leaders, on the other hand, understand how important it is to minimize the negative consequences of making mistakes, e.g. Dale Carnegie’s 23rd leadership principle, ‘Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.’ These leaders kindly provide constructive criticism which preserves the relationship and ensures the employee is comfortable taking risks and asking for help.
2. Improves performance. Employees who believe that their leaders and colleagues have their best interests at heart are high performers because they are more likely to feel engaged in their roles. Employee engagement is defined as the level at which employees are emotionally invested in, and focused on, creating value for their organizations every day. In a cut-throat, unkind culture of fear, employees are inclined to become less and less engaged over time and ultimately perform at levels lower than their actual potential according to a Harvard Business Review article.
3. Increases employee well-being. Human beings have evolved to exist as members of families, tribes and teams. As social beings, the more positive connections we have with others, the more likely we are to have higher levels of well-being. Dale Carnegie’s Human Relations principle, ‘Create happiness for others,’ is important because we increase our feelings of happiness when we help others feel happy. Many scientific studies have revealed that engaging in acts of kindness improves a person’s well-being. Any act of kindness is mutually beneficial—the person performing the act of kindness feels happy, as does the recipient of the act.
4. Impacts retention rates. Being kind helps ensure that every single employee feels important—Dale Carnegie’s 9th principle, ‘Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.’ Consistently being kind creates a sense of safety through which employees feel comfortable broaching tough topics honestly and openly whether one-on-one or in group settings. The more comfortable, important and valued that employees feel, the greater the chances that they won’t jump ship. In fact, female employees who don’t feel they can have honest conversations with their leaders have a lower overall workplace experience, and are more inclined to leave the organization according to research conducted by San Francisco-based Great Place to Work. Fostering a culture of kindness therefore positively impacts retention rates.