What effect do acts of kindness have on professional success?


We all probably agree that being kind is good, ethical, and enjoyable—but does it lead to professional success?

After all, isn’t kindness putting other people’s interests first?

Let’s look at three well-known people: James Timpson, owner of the Timpson shoe chain; Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand; and Gareth Southgate, one of the most successful coaches in the history of the England men’s national football team.

All of them are undoubtedly “winners” in their respective fields, but they all put kindness at the heart of their successful strategy.

What they’ve found is that a more compassionate and apparent soft approach—whether it’s to business, politics, or sport—brings positive results, benefiting not just the people who work for them, but themselves.

The traditional notion that you need to be relentless, determined and focused first if you want to be successful is being deconstructed.

There is more and more scientific evidence that kind people can be winners.

In 2020, I was part of a team at the University of Sussex in England that conducted one of the largest studies of its kind on public kindness behaviors.

More than 60,000 people from 144 countries agreed to take an extensive questionnaire called The Kindness Test, which was released on the radio shows I host — All in the Mindon BBC Radio 4, and health checkon the BBC World Service.

When I asked where people observed the most acts of kindness, the workplace did well, finishing third after home and medical facilities—two environments where people saw acts of kindness, and kindness was truly valued. .

This means that an environment that has a reputation for being wild and impersonal, where people compete for office, may harbor more empathy and consideration than you might think.

We need to keep in mind that this was a self-selected study — and, at first glance, a survey conducted by a brand consultancy of 1,500 UK professionals turned up less positive results. Only one in three respondents strongly agreed that their immediate boss was kind, and a quarter of them thought their organization’s leader was rude.

But, analyzing the results in more detail, we found that participants who had kind bosses were more likely to say that they would stay at the company for at least one more year, that the work produced by their team was excellent and that their company had good results. financial.

At the same time, 96% of employees who took part in the survey said that being kind at work was important to them, which suggests that kindness really matters if an organization wants to succeed.

This idea is confirmed by the research of the American psychologist Joe Folkman, who specializes in psychometrics (the branch of psychology that is dedicated to tests and measurements). He studied the feedback ratings of more than 50,000 leaders and found that bosses who were considered the most likable by their employees also tended to have higher ratings of effectiveness.

And perhaps most telling, there were very rare cases where someone was rated low on pleasantness and high on effectiveness—there was only a one in two thousand chance of that happening.

Folkman also found that companies with likable leaders performed better on a range of positive measures, including profitability and customer satisfaction.

Significantly, in the field of business research, gentle leadership is more often referred to as “ethical” leadership—perhaps because it sounds less gentle.

But whatever the name given to it, studies have shown that it can lead to a more positive work atmosphere and better employee performance.

Positive behavior can influence the work environment, according to a study by organizational psychologist Michelangelo Vianello of the University of Padua in Italy. He visited a public hospital near Padua and asked nurses confidentially about their bosses, including the extent to which they were fair and selfless and whether they stood up for their staff.

When the assessment was positive, nurses were more likely to express a desire to do something good for someone, to be more like their boss or to become a better person.

There is evidence that even small acts of kindness and cooperation from anyone can make a difference in the workplace.

There is something in psychology called “organizational citizenship behavior.” An example of this might be fixing the printer instead of leaving it broken for the next colleague to fix, or watering the plants in the office. These actions are not required as duties of the position, but if we put them into practice, the work environment is a little better for everyone.

And they matter more than you might think. In 2009, researcher Nathan Podsakoff, from the University of Arizona, in the United States, summarized the conclusions of more than 150 different studies in a meta-analysis.

The results were clear. This type of behavior, while small in isolation, was associated with better job performance, productivity, customer satisfaction, and efficiency.

There is one area where you might think there’s no point in being kind—the world of politics, where “everyone can save himself” reigns. But even in politics, there’s evidence that a kinder or more cordial style can still get you to the top, as Jacinda Ardern showed in New Zealand.

But what about the most impolite politicians like Donald Trump? Doesn’t its success show that a tougher approach eventually prevails?

Between 1996 and 2015, academic Jeremy Frimer analyzed the language used by members of the US Congress during plenary debates. In his study, he demonstrated that the approval ratings of both male and female congressmen were lower when they were uncivilized in their speeches, and increased when they were more polite and generous.

More recently, Frimer’s team analyzed reactions to Donald Trump’s tweets before he was kicked off the platform, concluding that few of his supporters actively “liked” his crudest tweets.

The tweets didn’t stop them from supporting Trump, but they continued to support him despite — not because of — his incivility.

Of course, there are many examples of people who get along in life and are selfish and rude to others.

But the point is that, despite what we observe in the program O Aprendiz or in the series Successionyou don’t have to be obnoxious and insensitive to be successful in business or other highly competitive areas of life.

You won’t be a winner simply by being kind, of course — it takes motivation, dedication and skill too — but there’s mounting evidence that showing a little kindness while pursuing your goal is no impediment to success.

* Claudia Hammond is the author of the book The Keys to Kindness: How to be kinder to yourself, others and the world (“The Keys to Kindness: How to Be Kinder to Yourself, Others, and the World”, published by Canongate Publishing.

This text was originally published here.

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