CEO Blog: What is kindness and does it belong in the workplace?

I came across an article the other day in The Flint Journal* that caught my attention. The headline read: “Be kind, and live longer, researchers say”.

While being kind is a fundamental tenet of mine, and something that my wife and I instilled in our children, I wanted to read further to learn how researchers linked kindness to extending a person’s life; and what were the implications for business.

According to the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) scientists, research has shown that mindfulness and kindness alter the behavior of genes, turning down those that promote inflammation, which can lead to heart disease and certain cancers, and turning up the activity of genes that protect against infections.

That’s sounds good. But how are they defining kindness? To answer this question, UCLA researchers agreed on an academic definition: Kindness is an act that enhances the welfare of others as an end in itself. When it comes to kindness, the intention rather than the outcome is key. In other words it’s the thought that counts.

Daniel Fessler, UCLA anthropology professor and director of the Bedari Kindness Institute explained further. He said, “Cultivating kind thoughts increases the frequency of kind actions, and both the thoughts and the experience of engaging in the actions have positive effects on the well-being of the individual”.

I would agree. Fessler’s explanation aligns with my experiences. An act of kindness can go a long way – for both the giver and the receiver – and we all can use more of it in our lives. But how does kindness benefit the workplace?

Being kind can improve our work environments and relationships with co-workers and partners. Communication can improve when you lead with kindness. Research has shown that kindness encourages increased energy levels and overall well-being in the workplace. Also, if you are in the midst of a disagreement – with a co-worker, friend or family member, kindness will help the debate stay civil.

The bottom line: Being kind to one another has science-backed benefits. It can make us healthier and happier, promote a more harmonious environment — at work and at home – and, we may live longer because of it.



*The article referenced was first published in the Los Angeles Times