Being benevolent… more than a buzzword
Let’s face it: benevolence has not always been a priority in the workplace. Performance, productivity, success, profits have always been more important. However, just as with well-being at work, kindness is becoming more and more important. A place that has an important impact on everyone. The reason for this is quite simple. Several studies have shown the positive effect of caring at work on performance, productivity, success, and profits. Who doesn’t dream of a more positive, joyful, and pleasant work environment?
Benevolence is defined as the feeling that leads a person to want the good of others. It entails generosity, commitment, or volunteering on the part of a person. It is also an important element in the maintenance and development of human relationships, particularly through the trust and collaboration it brings with it.
It is obvious that being benevolent has a direct impact on the people who benefit from it, but the positive impacts are also numerous on the “benevolent” person themself. In fact, researcher Elizabeth Midlarsky identifies six of them:
- Better perception of who they are;
- Better understanding of the meaning of their life;
- Skill and professional value confirmed and validated;
- Distraction from issues, problems and other stress factors;
- Sense of comfort and accomplishment;
- Socially more connected with others.
These elements are the foundation of happiness at work because they improve a person’s well-being, reduce stress, improve mood, and help build a network. And if you’re wondering, NO, it’s not just the boss who has to be kind nor is it only up to your ever-smiling, ever-cheerful colleague. It’s the responsibility of us ALL!
Do you wish to be considerate at work?
Here are five (5) principles that will allow you to do so, regardless of your role within an organization.
1- Do some active listening and make sure you understand
Everyone likes to feel heard and understood when interacting with others. Active listening is an important communication skill. It goes beyond listening and is about truly paying attention to what a person is saying. When the other person is speaking, try to understand what they are trying to communicate, focus on the meaning of their words rather than your own thoughts, and only ask questions if something is unclear or if you really would like more information. Make sure you put the other person at ease from the start of the conversation, put potential distractions aside (and yes, your cell phone, your brain’s extended organ, falls into this category…), keep your hasty judgments to yourself, and most importantly, remember that this is not your moment, but the moment of the person interacting with you!
2- Be courteous and nice
This component, while well understood in theoretical format, is unfortunately rarely applied. However, regardless of your role in an organization, showing kindness is essential to ensure a healthy work environment. This is especially true for people in leadership positions. Work is often a major source of stress which, in turn, has a negative impact on the health of workers. In fact, several studies have found that stress results in significant negative impacts on anxiety levels, back pain, depression, headaches, cardiovascular disease, insomnia and overall immunity.
In turn, kindness reduces the impact of stress, increases engagement, boosts productivity and increases happiness at work. Isn’t this a tremendously accessible, affordable and effective medicine?
Simple enough. Take the time to say thank you, to show your appreciation.
3- Demonstrate respect at all times
Humanity and competence are two variables people use to determine whether or not they want to work with someone. According to a study by Porath and Gerbasi (2015), someone who is respectful will lead people to quickly identify them as humane and competent. This means that respect has a significant impact on how others perceive us. In a professional context, respecting others sends a strong signal that not only do you make another person feel valued but that you will be able to help and support them in the future. Being respectful contributes to the sense of safety and psychological well-being that is important to happiness at work. Respect is therefore an important element of caring. Respect your commitments, express disagreements in a calm and structured manner and adopt a positive attitude. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Walk the talk!
4- Trust others
Remember: Alone we can go fast; together we go farther! Trust in the workplace fosters a culture of honesty, psychological safety, and mutual respect. Your co-workers take pride in their competence and their work. Showing trust to others is also a strong sign of caring. Trust in the workplace allows others to feel secure in their jobs. According to a MetLife report (2019), one of the top factors in importance impacting happiness at work is the trust employees have in their organization’s leadership.
By fostering a culture of trust and caring, organizations can cultivate a happier workforce and meet the individual needs of their employees on a large scale. To do this, organizations must commit to embedding transparency, inclusion, and investments in employee success into the fabric of their organization and ensure that they clearly communicate these initiatives to employees. This also means making room for macro-management and turning away from micro-management to demonstrate the organization’s trusting commitment to its employees.
5- Accept errors as a learning and development opportunity
Mistakes are usually associated with incompetence and not being able to achieve objectives. In some environments, the fear of error can completely hamstring an organization’s growth and even rob it of its ability to innovate.
A healthy error management culture involves accepting that a co-worker, colleague, and even a superior may make a mistake in the course of their duties in order to learn from it – not be overly reprimanded without understanding what could have been done differently or better. Such an environment allows people to want to challenge themselves, innovate and improve. Their sense of security will be fulfilled. The fear of taking calculated risks, actions and decisions will fade away. Productivity and happiness at work will increase.
Mistakes must be part of a continuous improvement process. It must be accepted and acknowledged. But above all, it must be used to maximize learning and develop skills. Do not be too swift to judge the person who makes a mistake. Be there for that person. Help them to understand, speak, ventilate, etc. Be there for them! That is also what being kind to others is all about.
Never underestimate a person’s desire to learn. In fact, as Google puts it: “success is measured by the number of failures”, which means that innovation and progress require setbacks in order to bounce back. The benefits are numerous:
- a much greater sense of autonomy;
- more stimulated innovation;
- easier decision making;
- higher psychological security, much less stress;
- greater happiness and well-being at work.
In short, we’d be crazy to do without it, right?
1 Midlarsky, E. (2014). Prosocial Behavior in Late Life in Oxford Handbook of Prosocial Behavior. Oxford University Press, 415-423.
2 Porath, C., Spreitzer, G., Gibson, C., & Garnett, F. G. (2011). Thriving at work: Toward its measurement, construct validation, and theoretical refinement. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33(2), 250-275.
3 Metlife (2019). 2019 Sustainability Report. Source: https://www.metlife.com/content/dam/metlifecom/us/sustainability/pdf/report/2019/2019-sustainability-report.pdf