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Kindness Gets You Far in the Workplace


Ellen DeGeneres
appeals to a simple truth when she says, “Always be kind to one another.” She doesn’t say “at home,” she doesn’t say, “just when you are at school,” and she doesn’t say “except when you are at work.” It turns out that science is in agreement with Ms. DeGeneres.

(Photo Credit: Nutmeg Designs/Flickr)

Myth And Reality About Kindness

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Myths about kindness include that forgiving somebody else makes you weak, being compassionate toward yourself makes you lazy, and expending energy on being kind to others wears you out.

Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business published The Psychology of Kindness in the Workplace, in which scholars explain how a culture of caring and compassion is necessary at work. For example, forgiving a worker’s mistake is perceived by others as good leadership. If you wish to move up to a leadership position, being harsh with others may hold you back. The opposite of forgiving is holding a grudge. One expert in Stanford’s research, Jay Narayanan, describes a grudge as a heavy backpack that weighs you down and makes it difficult to walk uphill. And the hill is much steeper for those that carry grudges.

The lesson here is forgiving the mistakes of others is better for everybody, and for the business.

Constructive criticism is necessary, but remembering to compliment more than correct is both kind and increases productivity. Managers who only correct are more likely to curb the enthusiasm of workers. Two compliments and one correction, however, makes people feel like you see their good points and are trying to help them improve. They will likely try to please you. Instead of becoming worn out being kind to others, everybody feels energized.


Being kind to yourself may make you more successful. Berating yourself for every little mistake does not help you do better. Rather, forgive yourself and examine your mistakes in an attempt to do better. Look at your strengths and capitalize on those. Energy spent feeling angry at yourself will bring you down.

Caring about your own well-being and caring about others go hand in hand. You can develop consistent behaviors showing kindness and respect for others, as well as recognizing the strengths, not just the weaknesses, of people in your workplace.

The emotional atmosphere of your office comes down from the top, just like workplace culture. If your managers are angry or rude, people in the company will more be affected in a negative way. A one-hour session on kindness in the workplace will not change anything unless the manager makes an effort to change.

As Stanford points out, kindness is important in the workplace, and a culture of compassion and kindness leads to greater productivity and greater contributions from team members and workers.

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Is there kindness in your workplace culture? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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Great article! I don’t understand why Gary Tauss who used to be the former CEO of BizTech in Huntsville, AL in 2010 that nice people don’t get the job done when he was interviewed about his work. He didn’t seem to get the value of everybody being kind to one another which is goodwill and better for productivity obviously. Hope he has sense that everyone being nice is crucial and can still get the job done with boundaries set well.… Read more »

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