Companies should consider the benefits of “being kind” to promote employee well-being and a better culture of compliance.
Giving a keynote speech at Compliance Week Europe in Edinburgh, Scotland, last month, author David Hamilton told attendees kindness can be a very powerful and effective way of improving corporate behavior and workplace productivity.
Hamilton, who formerly worked in the pharmaceutical industry, said “rather than mindfulness, companies should think about kindfulness to improve the workplace and the well-being of employees,” adding that “the opposite of stress is kindness.”
According to Hamilton, performance metrics are usually based on short-term targets that create a stressful working environment. This, he said, is counterintuitive to what the organization is trying to achieve over the long term.
Instead, if employers promote a more empathetic environment that encourages openness, employees will be more receptive to embracing the organization’s aims to achieve its goals.
He added that if companies demonstrate a culture of kindness, employees are more likely to embrace it and adopt a similar approach. He believes this can have tangible benefits in the day-to-day working environment.
“Kindness and empathy can make employees happier in their work, which makes them more likely to come forward with concerns and raise organizational problems, as well as more confident about suggesting possible solutions,” said Hamilton.
A more empathetic and kinder working environment also creates a better culture of compliance. For example, it can result in a rise of whistleblowing complaints as employees feel safer about raising concerns internally, he said.
Other benefits are that employees are more prone to stay with the company and much less likely to steal, have “duvet days,” take unnecessary risks, or seek to harm the business (by stealing materials, selling data, or sabotaging IT systems, for instance).
“Some companies are measuring the impact of kindness by carrying out employee satisfaction surveys, examining how many projects are completed within deadline, looking at staff turnover, and seeing how many sick days employees are averaging. These can all be indicators of the positive effects of how kind a working environment actually is,” he said.
Hamilton said kindness has a high reproduction number—“R” number— in the same way viruses are contagious. He said research studies have shown that a single act of kindness can positively impact between three to five people to three degrees of separation, meaning each person who experiences kindness can pass the same feelings onto another potential five people, who in turn pass on those feelings to another five people, who then positively affect a further five people each.
Within a 24-hour period, potentially 125 people can feel better for several hours by experiencing just one act of kindness, he said.
“If companies can demonstrate that kindness is at the heart of their working environment, why can’t kindness also be at the heart of their working practices and corporate strategy?”
Author David Hamilton
Even watching kindness can alleviate stress, he said, so it is good for corporate behavior and workplace health.
“People tend to be receptive to emotions around them; if people are stressed, they become stressed. If people are relaxed, they relax. If people are kind, they will be kind,” he said. “If managers set the tone and show empathy and understanding, employees will respond to it positively.”
Hamilton said the positive benefits of kindness could be used to underpin codes of ethics and business conduct, as well as sustainability goals.
“If companies can demonstrate that kindness is at the heart of their working environment, why can’t kindness also be at the heart of their working practices and corporate strategy?” said Hamilton.
“Companies have a duty of care to their employees, suppliers, the public, and other stakeholders. Some companies are often accused of addressing these issues as part of a (public relations) exercise, but if they genuinely took a kinder approach to managing these types of issues, they may have greater success in moving toward achieving these goals.”
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