Kindness: the Best Workplace Spirituality Practice Ever

If you really want to bring more integrity, purpose and joy to work, follow the Dalai Lama, who often has said, “My religion is kindness.”

Kindness includes so many wonderful things, like friendliness, pleasantness, generosity, and understanding.  Where kindness is practiced at work, there’s cooperation, not power tripping.  … Respectful teamwork, not bullying or harassment.  … Welcoming of differences, not hostility or favoritism.

All this makes for a workplace where people are more likely to be excited about going to work than dreading it.  At the end of the day, there’s a spring to their step and time for a rich life, not exhaustion or the urge to escape.

All this means that kindness also is a benefit to the financial bottom line.

As Jodi RR Smith, director of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting in Marblehead, MA says, “People’s discomfort chills the workplace dynamic. When people feel respected, they are more likely to be fully present and engaged, ready to roll up their sleeves for effective work.”

Kindness is the Appropriate Form of “Love Your Neighbor” at Work

Khalil Gibran has called work, “love made visible.”  Jesus has said that the most important commandment after loving God is to love our neighbors as we love ourselves — with “neighbor” being expanded way beyond the traditional definition of a fellow tribesman or person who lives nearby.

The Golden Rule used to be touted as best way to love our neighbors.  Lately, there’s been talk of a higher standard, or the Platinum Rule.  Instead of doing unto others as we want them to do unto us, we do as they would wish to be done unto.  In other words, rather than assuming how someone wants to be treated, get to know him or her and discover their preferences.  (A great basic marketing practice!)

When we remember that others also want the blessing of being seen and honored as beings with unique viewpoints and preferences, the full Golden Rule works quite well.  Indeed, what employees want most from employers or fellow workers isn’t money or status.  It’s appreciation and acknowledgement — basic forms of kindness. Clients also want kindness in the form of honest, friendly, authentic service or products.

Legal Cases Show the Need for Kindness at Work

A few of the things I’ve seen while working part-time for employment lawyers over the years are very painful:

  • Employees throwing a noose over an African-American employee’s head and calling it horseplay;
  • Employers humiliating employees and retaliating against those who speak out against abuse at work;
  • Insults based on employees’ sex, age, race, creed, or disability;
  • Bullying, favoritism and sabotage at all levels of the corporate ladder.

When I entered the workforce in the 1960’s, many of these reprehensible activities were perfectly legal.  Over the years, employment law has slowly expanded to provide more freedom from harassment and a more equal job playing field.

Legal support for kindness — or at least protection against the worst unkindness — is moot if people don’t take the help that’s available to them.  Having summarized hundreds of depositions in employment law cases, I’m saddened by the number of people who don’t know how to set and maintain good boundaries.  Sometimes, they are motivated by their own misguided good intentions.

Witness an employee who thought if she simply pulled away every time her superior touched her inappropriately, he would get the message.  She didn’t want to humiliate him by speaking out, she said, and when he kept his hands to himself, she basically liked and respected him.

Like the neighbor in Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall,” we need good fences, or boundaries.  Sometimes, the greatest kindness one can do to a fellow employee or supervisor is say something like, “stop,” while a wrongdoing is small. That’s not easy for those of us who find it harder to be kind to ourselves than it is to be kind to others.

Kindness Goes Beyond Good Manners, Though That’s a Great Start.

A basic tenet of good manners is respect for self and others.  Ordinary good manners provide a great foundation for practicing kindness at work.

One of the most satisfying articles I ever wrote was for Workforce Management Magazine about a growing, informal etiquette for spirit and work, including an etiquette that which might be acceptable to atheists, spiritual eclectics, and devout believers of any faith. I hope you’ll check it out and add your own thoughts about kindness at work here..

Imagine:  a workplace filled with kindness.  It starts here, now.  It grows steadily, act of kindness by act of kindness.

As always, many blessings,

Pat McHenry Sullivan

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