Below is an excerpt Jonah Sachs’ argument in Quartz on “The Dangers of Being Nice at Work.”
Having a supportive and overly cordial work culture can undermine new and innovative ideas, argues Jonah Sachs in an article for Quartz. Office environments that stress positivity and downplay conflict can suppress the tension needed to surface ideas and avoid bad decisions. According to Sachs, “Good as it feels, this emphasis on niceness leads to poor decision-making and low levels of creativity by limiting the number of inputs a group will consider and diverting focus away from risk-taking and results.
Coming from an evidence-based space and my own leadership experiences, here’s why I totally disagree.
From research on positive organizational psychology it is determined that not only is a merciless environment harmful to productivity over time, but that a positive environment adds wonderful benefits to employers, employees, and the bottom line.
A positive workplace is more successful because it broadens and builds positive emotions and wellbeing.
First, employees prefer workplace wellbeing to material benefits. Wellbeing at work can only come from one place, and one place only — a positive culture.
For Google, employee satisfaction rose 37% as a result of those initiatives—suggesting that financial incentives aren’t enough to make for highly productive employees.
Professor Kim Cameron’s research on the qualities of positive workplace cultures sums it up by six characteristics:
· Inspiring each other at work
· Taking responsibility, being interested in and caring for colleagues as friends
· Stepping in with support for one another with kindness and compassion when someone is struggling
· Forgiving mistakes and avoiding blame
· Upleveling respect, gratitude, trust and integrity among workers
· Making work more meaningful and purposeful
Second, research conducted by North-West University suggests there is a strong association between positive organizational practices and employee flourishing.
Employees scoring high on flourishing (compared with low-scoring employees) felt their work environment to be significantly more respectful, supportive, caring, meaningful, inspirational, and forgiving.
Third, kindness creates upward spirals and helps people to shift into a self-perception of, “I do good in the world.” Research shows altruistic people tend to be happier and produces pro-social reciprocity.
Kindness is contagious. Engaging in acts of kindness produces the brain’s natural painkiller —endorphins.
This positive effect is experienced in the brain of everyone who witnessed the act, improving their mood and making them significantly more likely to “pay it forward.”
When people are stuck in a negative state, they are often self-centered in their thinking and feeling. Performing a kind act gets people into an “other centered” way of being, which can increase their mood and put them into an upward spiral.
Research suggests kind people experience 23% less cortisol, which is the stress hormone and they age slower than average.
Here’s What Management Can Do
1. Leaders impact employees’ mood and feeling. The University of Michigan suggests that leaders who demonstrate compassion toward employees foster individual and collective resilience in changing times. Compassion is indeed an act of kindness.
2. Get rid of toxic workplaces. The University of California’s research discovered the probability of dying early is 20% higher for people who are obese; 30% higher for excessive drinkers; 50% higher for smokers; but a huge 70% higher for people with poor social relationships. Leaders must nurture social connections. Toxic, stress-filled workplaces affect both social relationships and life expectancy!
3. Coach your employees. Studies reveal that employees want pragmatic advice–coaching that answers their needs around insights, clarity and direction, while also respecting their autonomy and independence. Leaders, get in an “other centered” way and think of what you can offer your people and how it can benefit them and the organization’s bottom line.
Contrary to Jonah’s thoughts, a little act of kindness can go a long way.
Call To Action
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