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Podcast: HR Business Partnering
January 14, 2019
How to Leverage Radical Candor on Your Job Search
January 16, 2019

In most workplaces – hopefully yours included – you come across a handful of employees who are just plain likeable. They exude a goodness and moral uprightness that are respected and admired by all. Not self-righteousness, mind you. Just good, old fashioned, value-driven uprightness. Generally, what attracts you to these people is their fundamental core of virtue.

By definition, virtues are character traits that demonstrate the moral excellence of a person. That solid core of virtue appears to drive everything about these people: how they think; what they say; what they do. Observe them in action and you can identify virtues at play. Those virtues might include: charity, joy, peace, humility, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, honesty, industry, service, and trustworthiness – to name a few.

The good news about virtue is that, like a skill, it can be learned, practiced and developed into habit. You simply have to set your mind and heart on becoming a better person.

Let’s begin by exploring the virtue of kindness in the workplace.


“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” – Henry James

What does it look like?

Kindness defines a person who is friendly, generous and considerate in both attitude and behavior. In the workplace, kind people are approachable, even-tempered, sensitive to the feelings of co-workers, and determined to work through conflict in order to arrive at an agreeable solution. Kind co-workers refrain from harsh judgment and aggressive speech or behavior toward others.

How can you practice it?

Adopt the Five-to-One Kindness Ratio

Psychologist John Gottman has scientifically proven that kindness in a relationship is the number one indicator that the relationship will thrive. Gottman preaches the “magic ratio” of five positive biddings (i.e., interactions) with a partner to every one negative bidding. Could it be that the same five-to-one ratio holds true for a thriving and cohesive work team? Try it and watch what happens.

Lead with Positive Intent

As much as possible, consciously consider the good of the other person in your workplace decisions and choices.

Speak the truth in gentleness. I once asked a friend for her opinion about a decision I had to make. She responded: Do you want me to be kind or honest? That led me to consider the bigger question: Are truth and kindness mutually exclusive? I don’t think so. The kindest thing you can do for a person is to be truthful, yet to speak that truth with a sensitivity toward the effect it will have on the person. If you care about people and do not challenge them, explains Kim Scott, you engage in nothing short of ruinous empathy. So, be truthful AND kind.

Assume Positive Intent

Kindly give co-workers the benefit of the doubt. Assume the motivation behind their words and actions is good, fair and just.

Recognize that each co-worker has unique strengths that drive how they think, feel and act. Not everyone thinks like you. Knowing and celebrating everyone’s unique strengths makes you less judgmental and more appreciative of the gifts that each person brings to the team. Purple Ink recommends the CliftonStrengths assessment and process to identify employees’ signature strengths.

Refuse to enter the workplace drama that ensues when co-workers are judgmental and distrustful.

Refrain from Workplace Gossip

Learn to identify when chatter turns into gossip. Marcel Schwantes advises: “When light conversation and idle chitchat elevates to negative, inflammatory and embarrassing to the person being spoken of, you’ve ventured into gossip terrain, which… is a form of attack and workplace violence.”

Counter every word of gossip with a kind and complementary statement about the victim.

Devise a kind statement to use every time someone attempts to pass on gossip to you. Some possibilities include: I’m sure you mean well, but I prefer not to speak negatively about co-workers; or, Wow, you should talk to [name] about that. I bet [name] would want to know that it creates a problem for you. Then, casually change the topic.

Begin a zero-tolerance anti-gossip movement in your workplace, even if you just start with your own team or small group of close co-workers.

Encourage Outreach Kindness Initiatives

Organize a team of co-workers to serve regularly (monthly, quarterly) at a soup kitchen, food pantry, or community outreach service.

Invite a team of co-workers to join a walk or run for a cause that is personal and important to co-workers or to the company.

Schedule a canned food collection for a homeless shelter or food bank.

The beauty of promoting kindness in the workplace is its twofold effect on office morale: both the giver and the receiver experience a boost in happiness. “According to Action for Happiness, people who practice kindness and gratitude experience greater levels of happiness and life satisfaction. Rather than success fueling happiness, happiness fuels success.” (HRZone) Just imagine the effect of this dynamic on workplace engagement and productivity! And you can be the catalyst who effects that positive change by developing and practicing the virtue of kindness!

For lots more ideas on kindness in the workplace visit: www.randomactsofkindness.org.

Denise McGonigal
Denise McGonigal
Denise is a Purple Ink Collaborator and co-author of The JoyPowered® Family. With Learner in her top 5 Strengths, she is passionate about continuous learning both for herself and others.

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