Kindness Works


Want to have a successful career? Be a great leader? Help your team and organization perform better?

No matter what your current position or future goals, there’s one thing that will impact your career even more than competence or expertise – they way you treat others.

The Risk of Rudeness

Often we are oblivious to the effect we’re having on those around us. Most of us don’t mean to treat others poorly, and almost none of us truly want to be hurtful to other people. Some of us may have even learned along the way that a tough demeanor shows we mean business or that we’re in charge. The truth is, treating others with disrespect shows the opposite of leadership.

Rudeness shuts people down and dampens performance. Research shows that even simply witnessing others’ rude behavior affects people’s ability to focus. This is true regardless of the person’s intentions – rudeness is always in the eyes of the recipient. It’s how people feel that counts, and that counts against us when we behave disrespectfully.

Rude behavior takes many forms, from shouting in disagreement, making a snarky remark, a passive aggressive eye roll or loud sigh in a meeting, gazing at the screen instead of the person speaking, interrupting someone with our own brilliant idea. No one enjoys being on the receiving end of these gestures. They demean and disrespect others, and create barriers to collaboration and innovation.

Most of us cite our own stress or busyness as the reason for our rudeness. Others may feel they’ve never been given guidance for how to treat others in the workplace. Regardless of the source, rude behavior takes its toll on our own, and our organization’s, ability to excel.

The Case for Kindness

While rudeness holds others down, kindness lifts others up. Kind behavior is based on deep respect for others and tangibly recognizes others’ dignity and value.

Sharing a smile, saying “please” and “thank you”, showing genuine appreciation, listening without interrupting or planning a response, and using nonverbals to convey interest in the speaker are all ways to demonstrate kindness and respect to those you work with. No kind action is too small or too subtle.

Valuing those you work with ultimately adds value to the work you do. Kindness helps people feel safe and valued, which leads them to be more productive and more open to sharing and cooperating. Displaying warmth and respect for others shows you are a leader – no matter your job title. We naturally work harder for those who treat us with respect.

Choosing Kindness

Will you choose to lift others up or hold them down? Your choice could mean the same for yourself and your career. Consider a few actions you can take to cultivate kindness in your work day.

Begin noticing any personal behavior patterns of rudeness (or kindness). For example, when your mind starts racing over a current project does make it hard for you to pay attention to what a teammate is saying? Do you find yourself snapping at your coworker when the afternoon lull hits and your energy is low? Practicing mindfulness could be helpful to this process.

Come up with a couple realistic goals for yourself based on your previous patterns. What area can you start working on this week or this month? Perhaps you can commit to sharing a smile with people you pass in the hallway, or pledge to give a coworker a genuine compliment on their work on a recent project. No matter how small, notice and celebrate your progress.

Something to Try: The 10/5 Rule

Have you ever heard of the “10/5 Rule”?

This rule began in the hospitality industry as a way for hotel staff to interact with guests, however it can be applied in any workplace setting where we are interacting with others. Following this simple rule can go a long way in cultivating kindness within yourself and your workplace.

The “10/5 Rule” states that when you are within 10 feet of another person, acknowledge them by making eye contact and smiling. When you are within 5 feet of another person, offer a greeting or other friendly gesture of acknowledgement along with eye contact and a warm smile.

Will you join me in trying out the “10/5 Rule” this week?

Danielle Metzinger is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Sue Burke

I’ve been a ’10/5 Rule’ person for years! It makes me feel better. Simply making that momentary eye contact and flashing a smile has made me happier and more aware of my surroundings.
In our multicultural world, I find it helpful to remember that “A smile is the same in every language”.

Danielle Metzinger

That is awesome, Sue! It’s so great to make it a habit and see that “ripple effect” of kindness with all of those around us.

Tommy Bowen

Great post Danielle! This is great life advice, whether you’re in a professional setting or not. I find that taking the route that requires slightly more effort (read: being outwardly kind) is far more rewarding on a day-to-day basis.

Cydney Elsey

In my career, I learned what NOT to do as manager. I wholeheartedly believe in kindness and the impact on the employees has been phenomenal, since my promotion into management. Morale is boosted and productivity has increased, so I completely believe in this method!

Danielle Metzinger

I’m very glad to hear of your and your team’s success through kindness, Cydney. It’s so gratifying to lift others up through kindness and really see the change across the team. Congratulations on your promotion!

Danielle Metzinger

Absolutely, Vernell! Kindness leads to more kindness – I’d love to see kindness go “viral” in our workplaces.

Kara Rueckert

Hi Danielle! A co-worker of mine has read this blog and was curious if you were only a writer or if you also attending staff meetings and similar events to share this information in person? If so, we would love to have you join us for our mid-summer staff meeting in August so everyone can hear this great message! Please email me with details when you get a chance.

Thank you 🙂