By Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

A lot of people misquote Charles Darwin’s work. His concept of “Survival of the fittest” is often linked to human beings, and that to survive we have to look out for ourselves. 

But they are getting Darwin’s work all wrong. He didn’t view mankind as being biologically competitive and self-interested. Darwin believed that humans are a social and caring species and argued that sympathy and caring for others is part of our fundamental nature.

We are born kind, Darwin believed, but as we grow, we are taught to be tough and tamp down compassionate tendencies.

And yet, research shows, kindness is vital to success in whatever we do in life. We find it is one of the most important predictors of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness—specifically shown through empathy and caring—is among the most important characteristics in great leaders.

And kindness is needed now more than ever.

The death of George Floyd shocked many people of all races. In the days that followed, we called several of our black friends and colleagues and we listened. As white men, we were educated in a deep and profound way about the experience of people of color as victims of racism. Nothing begins to change in this world if we are not kind enough to listen to each other. 

We understand that policy changes must follow, of course, but they will only happen if we truly open our ears and understand each other.

Kindness at Work

We have consulted in the corporate world for two decades, and we know that kindness is not typically considered a sought-out virtue by many organizations. To climb the corporate ladder, we are told we need to light a fire in our bellies, not to become more compassionate. Consciously or subconsciously, the message is: You can’t get to the top by being a doormat. What research shows, however, is that being kind has nothing to do with weakness and everything to do with strength.

The research is compelling that positive, kind work cultures are more productive and profitable than negative cultures. John Kotter and James Heskett of the Harvard School of Business once unveiled the findings of an 11-year study. The study found positive cultures had stock growth 10 times higher than organizations with negative workplaces. Revenue growth was more than four times greater in those with positive cultures over than the negative.

Imagine if every organization trained its workers in such behaviors as caring and empathy for other teammates, their customers, their communities. Imagine if every organization included Kindness in their core values. And then explained the specific kind of behaviors they were looking for in that value?

When you think about it, it really is a no-brainer that kindness will breed productivity in our teams. But how do we do it?

Every day commit to 3 Random Acts of Kindness at work.

Acts of kindness ideas might be as simple as:

  • Listening to the life experience of a colleague who comes from a different background
  • Rolling up your sleeves to help a coworker who’s underwater
  • Helping with a colleague’s paperwork
  • Writing a handwritten note of thanks for a job well done
  • Offering to do someone’s least favorite task
  • Praising a teammate in a staff meeting
  • Remembering someone’s birthday

We hope you’ll find these acts lead to a better team culture and happiness in your own life.

By making a better workplace for others, we make ourselves better leaders.

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