The concept of kindness in the workplace has gained a great deal of momentum in recent years, which can be seen in recent studies, articles and conferences centered around this point. I believe this to be an excellent development and the world can always use a little extra kindness, both in an office environment and in our everyday lives.
How can you incorporate an attitude of kindness in your company? Here are 10 simple ideas that we use at GuesttoGuest… please don’t hesitate to implement these ideas in your company or share your own ideas with me!
- Organize annual reviews that focus on personal growth rather than financial rewards
This year we completely updated our annual review process. We asked every team member to conduct an interview with at least three people of their choosing from within the company – one of which needs to be with one of the co-founders – but they are more than welcome to do even more reviews if they wish.
The sole reason for these interviews is to receive the feedback needed to grow both as an individual and as member of the team. Avoiding topics such as wages and evaluation scorecards filled out by “The Boss”, means the tone of these conversations is entirely transformed.
These interviews remain simple discussions between colleagues with the aim to neither pass judgement nor feel the need to justify one’s work; the only goal is to improve.
- Compliment in public, criticize in private
Use public settings for compliments and save the criticism for the private one-on-one talks. Statements and sentiments voiced in public settings tend to get amplified in the presence of an audience; it’s better the amplification be used for good news and positive feelings!
- Play the Gorilla and Peanut game
The Gorilla and Peanut game is simple and a great way to boost good feelings between colleagues. It’s sort of like Secret Santa, but the gift giving includes random acts of kindness and can last for an entire month.
To start, one person must accept the role of the “Game Master” and organize the entire game without participating. All willing participants must register with the Game Master if they want to get in on the fun. Once the Game Master has compiled the complete list of participants, he/she will need to send a private message to everyone playing the game.
Every participant will receive the name of their “Peanut” and through this process there will be a chain of Gorillas and Peanuts: A is the Gorilla of B, B is the Gorilla of C, C is the Gorilla of D, and so on. This chain goes all the way around until employee Z become the Gorilla of employee A. The challenge of every Gorilla is to be the nicest person in the world to your Peanut, but don’t get caught. The mission of each Peanut, find out the identity of your Gorilla.
We recently played this game for an entire month and every day the office was filled with compliments, treats, and other little gifts. It created an environment full of surprises and joy.
And don’t feel bad for the Game Master, even though he didn’t participate, our team rewarded him with a box full of beer to show our gratitude!
- Get rid of the titles
Titles create barriers and place a person’s function in the company before their character. These labels also, to some extent, dehumanize the person behind the role and kindness can only thrive on human connection.
Titles discourage kindness, so let’s discourage titles!
- Be there during the hard times
Kindness is particularly important during challenging times. These challenges can be personal or big-picture in nature; terrorist attacks in the city we are based in have unfortunately been the most notable examples.
I am particularly proud of a recent internal example in which our team mastered the use of kindness to overcome the personal challenge of a colleague. One of our interns had her personal computer and cell phone stolen in a nearby café after work. Her gorilla (see tip #3 for reference) organized a fundraiser to replace the stolen items and over half of our employees participated.
- Take the time to say hello
There is an employee in our company that starts every day by going around the office and personally wishing every colleague a good morning. Ever since I noticed this behavior I have tried to emulate it. It is much more enjoyable to start the day with dozens of personal smiles and greetings than with a blanketed “good morning” tossed into the void.
- Congratulate and emphasize those who embody the company values
Though I have yet to put it into practice, I am convinced that we can spread even more kindness by allowing the team to distinguish individual team members who embody our values particularly well. The idea is for each team member to “vote” for one of their colleagues and recount an anecdote that portrays this person incorporating one of our 6 values.
This act gives the voter an opportunity to utilize their kindness by praising their colleague and allows them to reflect on and appreciate the positive outcomes of another’s kindness. Through this process, I believe the team will begin to put more of an importance on each company value and since their efforts are noticed and appreciated by others, they will look for even more creative ways to do good deeds!
- Begin face-to-face meetings with the right tone
I try to always start off one-on-one meetings by asking the other person how they are doing and, if I know them well, ask them for updates on their day to day lives (for example the start of a new school year, vacations, relationships, health, etc.). In addition to the fact that I do this out of genuine interest, this practice is incredibly useful. Doing this allows (1) those with a personal subject in mind to be able to voice their concerns, (2) for me to be able to gauge the room and adapt the meeting if need be, (3) give the other person a chance to ask me the same questions.
This last point is very important. Opening up about my own personal situations and sentiments gives them relevance within the context of the meeting and allows others to feel as though their stresses and challenges are also accepted in the workplace. This brief moment of vulnerability also has the added advantage of evoking the other’s sense of kindness. There are, of course, certain people that would prefer not to speak about their own personal situations, in which case, I do not force the conversation.
- Be a leader of kindness
Whether relating to kindness or another of the company values, a boss, as the leader, cannot simply put the messages on a poster and call it a day. He or she must display these values in their own behavior and work ethic. The best way to adopt kindness in a company is to lead by example.
What are your methods or ideas for adopting kindness in the workplace environment?
PS : Yes, I only proposed 9 ideas rather than 10… I am counting on your kindness to help me complete the list :o)