Why organizations should invest in a kinder culture – and how to do it

Why organizations should invest in a kinder culture – and how to do it

Some of the best life advice I ever received was imparted during elementary school. That’s where I was taught to share my snacks, listen without interrupting to what peers were saying, always make time for recess and be kind to others. Decades later, those same lessons can help us build better places to work – particularly when it comes to creating kinder cultures.

When I talk about kindness in the workplace, I’m referring to being compassionate and actively supportive of others you work with.


Research has shown that kindness can create a more positive culture. The authors of this 2021 Harvard Business Review article called “Don’t Underestimate the Power of Kindness at Work” note that “practicing kindness by giving compliments and recognition has the power to transform our remote workplace.”

As many businesses have moved into hybrid work environments or returned to pre-pandemic levels of office attendance, treating others with kindness has become more important than ever before. Investing in kindness yields numerous benefits including:

Retaining top talent.

Once we recruit great talent, practicing kindness can help us keep them on board. “Kindness is essential to the talent we get to attract and how we retain our teams,” noted Andie Herbert, Founder & Chief Kindness Officer at Be Kind Lyfe, a consultancy that helps organizations transform culture and improve their business performance. “It creates an environment of innovation. It helps people grow. And ultimately when you have those things, your organization is growing.”

Preventing toxic cultures.

A 2019 Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) report called The High Cost of a Toxic Workplace Culture found that over 20% of Americans left a job in the previous five years due to bad company culture – and that was before the pandemic and ensuing Great Resignation. The cost of that turnover was an estimated $223 billion. Yikes!

Kindness prevents toxic workplace behaviors, which keeps people more productive. As Leadership Coach Amanda Gibson, who routinely partners with C-Suite executives explains, “People are craving meaning and belonging, which feeds levels of engagement that produce better output. Without that sort of kindness in the workplace and acknowledgement of others, we are not going to decrease levels of burnout and increase levels of wellbeing. You do that by showing others that they matter or showing up for others in the workplace.”

When employees are performing well, that enhances your bottom-line results. “Kindness isn’t a ‘fluffy’ concept that involves sitting in a cubicle and singing kumbaya,” added Herbert. “It is directly connected to your revenue and how competitive you are in the marketplace.”

Reducing legal risk.

There are also legal benefits in having a culture that embraces kindness. “While there is no law telling people to be kind, it’s much harder to screw up legally by being kind,” said Anne M. Buckingham, LL.M., Senior Commercial Lawyer at an automobile manufacturing company. “I didn’t say be a pushover, be patronising or let you/your business be taken advantage of, I said be kind.”

“Kindness adapts for FMLA, ADA and similar not just to the rules but because it’s kind,” continued Buckingham. “And the ones where it’s kind will have happier employees as opposed to those doing the letter of the law and no more. It’s hard to discriminate while being kind, because kindness involves listening to what’s going on. Kindness improves physical and mental health outcomes, and helps teams coalesce. All of this reduces legal risk.”

Good stuff, right? Promoting a kinder culture is a bit of a no-brainer. You don’t have to invest in an expensive program roll-out or another new initiative that may feel inauthentic. What matters most is the day-to-day acts of kindness practiced by individuals. Here are 3 ways you can encourage more kindness in your culture:

1. Normalize kindness.

Ryan Bowers is a senior director of operations with a large healthcare technology company. In the 10 years he’s been with the organization, Bowers has been impressed with the spontaneous acts of kindness he has observed.

“When a team member’s house suddenly burnt to the ground, leaving her with nothing, a peer pulled a fundraiser together that many contributed to. It was more of a word of mouth, not something run by the company or done for posterity, where everybody jumped in and helped out as fast as they could to make a difference in that person’s life,” he said.

Bowers has experienced kindness from his team as well. When he had surgery in 2017, his house got flooded. Soon he and his wife were receiving care packages from numerous people throughout the organization who wanted to support them. “By demonstrating kindness, you see kindness in return,” he said. “It was such a blessing to see and receive that support.”

2. Encourage people to take initiative.

Rachel Geissinger works as an administrative coordinator for a nonprofit called Environmental Initiative. During the first year of the COVID-10 pandemic, they saw a significant amount of turnover. As a friend to many of those individuals, Geissinger kept hearing departees say they didn’t feel valued. So, she decided to do something about it by sending heartfelt messages of appreciation.

“I can’t give anybody raises or bonuses, but because I have a list of everybody’s work anniversaries, I started sending each person a Teams message telling them what I appreciated about them,” explained Geissinger. “And I have heard back from people who told me that message made their day or made them cry. It was a tiny little thing, something easy that didn’t cost our organization any money, and it meant a lot to people.”

3. Recognize kind behaviors.

It’s easy to spotlight people who practice kindness. Ask your communications team to highlight those individuals in company social media feeds, publications and Town Halls meetings. Nominate them for values-based awards in the organization. Start a team meeting by telling others about their actions, and the positive impact it has had on others. Be like Geissinger, and send a thoughtful note.

Ready to start practicing more kindness? Think about someone you work with who does a wonderful job; they could be on a completely different team. Reach out and let them know in writing – it could be via a Teams message, email, text, handwritten note or an internal app – that you noticed their efforts and compliment their smarts, dedication, initiative or whatever made this person pop into your mind.

Looking for a step-by-step process to help you get unstuck and stay that way for good? Check out Free and Clear: Get Unstuck and Live the Life You Want. It is chock-full of helpful tips, easy-to-use tools and inspirational stories of individuals who overcame obstacles against the odds.

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