March 21, 2023, by Leah Sharpe
Kindness: The Workplace Superpower!
By Hannah Woolley, Careers and Employability Consultant
Being kind doesn’t often feature in lists of what graduate employers look for, nor does it tend to appear in many job descriptions or person specifications, yet offering kindness can be a powerful force for good in the workplace.
We asked two brilliant UoN alums to share their thoughts. Gowtam (Biochemistry, 2016) has a wealth of experience in recruiting graduates and developing talent across different sectors and internationally. Amin (Civil Engineering, 2013) is the Founder of Inner Instincts, and offers leadership, talent, and people development to support individuals, teams, and businesses.
What does kindness look like in a workplace context? And why is it important?
Gowtam: Kindness in the workplace is about appreciating and respecting the individual across the table from you. In practice, it’s about taking time to understand the differences in the way that we all think, the ways that we all work, creating and contributing to an environment that allows people to thrive in their own individual brilliant ways but also appreciating the lives that everyone leads outside of work. Kindness in the workplace is hugely important because it fosters an environment where everyone can be comfortable being themselves and through bringing their authentic selves to work will be enabled to reach their full potential.
Amin: Kindness can be anything from empathy, respect, acceptance of others to helping around the office with no real expectation of reciprocation. As kindness comes from within, an alignment of shared values and principles amongst employees is important. Company visions, values and culture are key to this so it’s imperative that new starters choose a company that aligns with their own values. It will be a lot easier to be kind to the world around them when they’re doing the same in a way that’s appreciated by all. This can enhance collaboration, increase productivity, reduce stress and have a positive impact on mental health.
How might an intern or a new graduate contribute to building a culture of kindness in the workplace?
Gowtam: Openly communicate what you need from the environment and people around you to be comfortable, this will allow your colleagues to understand how they can show kindness to you, and in turn, take time to understand your colleagues and their individual needs. A culture of kindness is not a blanket set of actions and rules, it is a series of inherent behaviours where each individual person is seen as and treated as exactly that, an individual.
Amin: Once a new starter understands what kindness is to them it’s integral be kind to everyone around them, no matter what their job title or status in the company is. Appreciating acts of kindness will go a long way in making this happen as others will begin to pay it forward. A simple thank you for keeping a door open or someone taking an empty cup to the kitchen can make a big difference to someone’s day and their outlook on the workplace.
How might a new graduate be kind to themselves when settling into their first job?
Gowtam: Accept that you have every right to be there, you have earned it! Respect your own ability and your own time, be comfortable and confident in setting boundaries, just because you are early on in your career you don’t have to say yes to everything. And go easy on yourself, no one is expecting you to learn everything on day one, give yourself time to reflect and take everything in. Lean into the process and enjoy learning new skills and ways of working, but don’t be hard on yourself if it doesn’t all click at once!
Amin: The main thing to remember is you’re wanted; you were chosen by the company to work to be a part of their growing success. There’s no need to set huge expectations when you start as you’re there to learn and develop. Positive reframing is a great way to keep your spirits up and not overthink the small things as you acclimatise to office etiquette and workplace culture. You shouldn’t be afraid to set healthy boundaries to stay true to your authentic self as this will lead to making more well-informed career decisions.
Want to explore this topic further? Watch this webinar – Sakshi Bansal, UoN alum (Work and Organisational Psychology, 2019), explains how to grow a workplace strategy based on kindness.
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