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There’s one quality you need as a leader that’ll inspire your entire workforce to be more engaged, more productive, and, ultimately, happier at work. It’s not your work ethic, your decision making, or your ability to do your job. Although these traits are very important, this quality supersedes that.
Yep, that’s it – the simple act of being kind and empathetic to your employees will work wonders for your business. And there’s research to prove it.
People treated kindly at work repay the favor by being 278% more generous to their co-workers than a control group, one study found in 2018. Not only that, but it found kindness sparks increased well-being in the workplace, which, in turn, creates higher energy levels and an increase in positive perspectives and problem-solving.
We can’t underestimate how beneficial this is for businesses, especially considering employee burnout is on the rise. Studies show more than 52% of US workers experienced burnout in 2021, up from 43% the previous year.
Related: 11 Quotes on Kindness That Every Entrepreneur Needs to Read
Kindness comes in many forms. It’s the way you speak, the language you use, the non-verbal communication you display, the feedback you give, and the targets you set.
Giving positive feedback for good work is an act of kindness, as is recognizing – and pointing out – when someone goes above and beyond their usual workload, using their initiative to drive forward your business goals. Celebrating people’s successes, rather than focusing only on their mistakes or failures, is another kind act.
Specifically, Gallup found receiving words of recognition and praise helps employees feel more fulfilled, boosts their self-esteem, improves their self-evaluations, and triggers positive emotions. Of course, this means they’re less likely to suffer from burnout.
The amazing consequence of kindness is that it creates a ripple effect. If you’re kind to your direct reports, they’re likely to pass on that feeling to the people they manage – and you form an energetic wave of positivity throughout your business. You have the power, as a leader, to promote this attitude. Employees are very aware of their bosses’ qualities, acts, and behaviors. There is no hiding a negative attitude or mean spiritedness. So, be kind on purpose.
Related: 5 Reasons Why Kindness Has Become the Key to My Happiness, Both in Business and in Life
It’s not only employees who benefit from kindness; businesses do too. When you actively foster kindness in the workplace and it becomes the norm, your company will reap the rewards. In a landmark study, which analyzed more than 3,500 businesses, researchers found acts of courtesy, helping, and praise were predictive of productivity, efficiency, and lower turnover rates. This contributed to higher business success and facilitated a culture of collaboration and innovation.
But it’s important to remember being kind at work isn’t only about the compliments you give out – it’s what you take in, too. That’s where empathy comes in.
Empathy is one of the most essential foundations of trust and transparency in a leader. If you can be empathetic towards your employees’ needs at work – whether that be issues they have with their workload, personal situations making their role more challenging, or communication breakdowns impacting their job performance – you’re contributing towards a more trusting relationship.
Their needs are important. Actively listening to them – that is, being fully present, really taking in what they’re saying, then responding appropriately – means you’ll begin to more deeply understand what they are feeling and see things from their perspective.
Although it can be quite challenging for some leaders to do, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is such a simple yet powerful tool. When people feel understood and respected, their barriers come down, and they’ll be more open to tackling their work with a fresh and open mind.
Research shows 90% of US workers say empathetic leadership leads to higher job satisfaction, and 79% agree it decreases employee turnover. So, you want happier co-workers who don’t want to jump ship at the first opportunity for a new role? Empathy is key.
Related: What Is Empathy, and Why Is It So Important?
The best thing about fostering kindness as a leader is that it’s completely free to do. Sure, it can be tricky if you’re in a high-pressure situation or find yourself up against a challenging task, but if you work on creating a kinder culture every single day, it’ll soon become the norm, and your mindset will start to shift.
Remember, more than 90% of your thoughts are subconscious, and without even realizing it, you make instant judgments about people and situations based on biases you may not even know you have. Becoming consciously aware of these thoughts is critical, and only then will you start to see situations from other people’s perspectives and truly understand what they need.
Now that’s when you can call yourself a great leader.