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Learn & Practice

Workplace Wednesday: Get Ahead At Work, With Kindness

By The Healthy Minds Team

In this week’s Workplace Wednesday we discuss the benefits of kindness, for both you and your colleagues.

Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

Kindness can feel like an odd skill, or feeling, to cultivate for the workplace. Aren’t we supposed to all be merciless go-getters, constantly trying to get ahead? Don’t nice guys (and nice women) finish last?

Well actually, the science says no. Kindness is not only beneficial for your personal well-being it actually plays a part in professional advancement!

Our founder, Dr. Richard Davidson, lays out a few examples of the benefits of kindness in general:

Imagine you gave people some money and then divided them into two groups. The first group gets to spend the money on themselves, and the second group has to buy a gift for someone else. When scientists did this experiment, they found that people who spent the day buying gifts for other people felt happier than the people who bought things for themselves. 

Kindness has all sorts of benefits. There’s even some research that suggests that kindness is linked to the body’s aging process. One study found that people who engage in kindness practices [like the ones available with Healthy Minds @Work, our Healthy Minds Public MasterClass, and within the Healthy Minds Program App] show less signs of aging at the cellular level.

Dr. Richard Davidson

The take-away here is that kindness benefits us just as much as it benefits the recipients of our kindness – perhaps even more.

So that’s the news on kindness in general. Again, what about in the workplace?

We’re often taught that competition and personal advancement are keys to success. But is that really true? 

Again, Dr. Richard Davidson explains some of the research on this topic:

The research on this topic of emotional intelligence is quite compelling. People who manage their own emotions and are empathetic with others tend to advance to higher positions in the workplace, to receive more pay increases, and to receive more favorable reviews from their peers and supervisors. But more importantly, being kind at work promotes well-being. In one study, people who did five kind things for their coworkers over the course of a month were more satisfied with their jobs and their lives. Perhaps even more interesting, those who received these acts of kindness  – even though they weren’t the ones who were instructed to be kind – did nearly 300% more acts of kindness as a result. It seems that kindness is contagious.

Dr. Richard Davidson

Kindness isn’t only contagious, it’s essential.

Kindness is like super glue for close relationships. Friendship, romantic relationships, parenting…all of these thrive with mutual kindness. And when we stop being kind to each other we end up isolated, lonely, and misunderstood. 

So it’s important to be kind to your friends and family. But how important is kindness for your work and career? It’s pretty clear that many of the people who seem to be getting ahead in our society are always looking out for #1. And it’s true, there are certainly people who do seem to get ahead by taking out the competition. But there are also plenty of successful people whose careers are motivated by kinder aspirations.

Can you be one of these people? Can you find kindness, practice kindness, and address work concerns from a place of kindness?

Here are a few things to try in the next week
  • Give yourself kindness. Have a bad meeting? A frustrating confrontation? Consider the event from the point-of-view of kindness for yourself. Try this meditation to get in touch with this skill.
  • Send kindness to others, with this meditation. Before you even join your next contentious meeting, spend a little time getting in touch with kindness for others. This can transform the way you see your next interaction.
  • Heal Division. Especially during this time of great political divisiveness it is easy to see others, even those you work with closely, as “the other” or even “the enemy.” Remember, these are just people with the same needs and desires as you. Our “Healing Division” meditation that we recorded for the U.S. election can address these feelings and help you turn the corner so you can feel warmth again for your colleagues.

So why don’t you be the start of a kindness revolution in your workplace. We bet that your well-being, as well as the culture of your workplace will greatly improve! Good luck.

Learn more about how the Healthy Minds Framework can support your workplace well-being with Healthy Minds @Work or signing up for our Healthy Minds @Work Public MasterClass.

HM@Work Meditations Workplace Wednesdays