In Work Life — Kindness Matters


Kindness applies so clearly to our work lives. However, we rarely exercise the option to use it. We’ve all suffered workplace disappointments and detours. However, many of these low points could have been tempered with a small dose of kindness. The opportunities for kindness are really endless. We just have to be mindful that they exist.

Here are just a couple of examples from my own career, where kindness might have changed the eventual outcome.

  • Applying for a job. Most of us have been either ignored, put off or minimized during the hiring process. So, do not post a role that has really already filled — or if a decision will not be made for months, don’t promise an update within a week. (Someone might turn down an opportunity with you in mind.)
  • A sharp change in direction. I was to gather data for my dissertation at a large auto company. One week before the process was to begin, a newly hired VP of HR stated: “We have ivy-league schools clambering to study us, why would I allow you to do so?”. (BTW, I attended Wayne State University, located in the heart of Detroit. It took 6 months to re-group with another sample). Explaining why they couldn’t comply without insult, would have been a better route.
  • Organizational downsizing. I was caught in one of these early in my career. After offering my heart and soul to the organization for nearly 2 years, they offered me a cardboard box (and out placement, if I signed a document to not sue) at 4:00 on a Friday afternoon. If I had known my role was in danger, I could have looked for another role. Instead they chose to be cold and perfunctory, to avoid a real conversation and potential legal issues. Real leaders know better.

I’m sure you have your own work life stories to reflect upon. How would an act of kindness have changed the situation?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and coach. She is the Director of Thought Leadership at Kilberry Leadership Advisors, Toronto.

5 thoughts on “In Work Life — Kindness Matters

  1. Your use cases mentioned regarding where kindness would have helped – almost borders on respect instead of kindness. We should respect each other and therefore respond/react appropriately. I agree that kindness is needed at work and I don’t see it enough. Personally I feel that people need to be nicer to each other instead of focused on only what they need/want.


  2. Thank you for this article which has paved a way for me to share my thoughts here amidst more experienced individuals. I have come to understanding there is a reason why we go through these challenges or road blocks. How others as well as myself respond, handle or execute a difficult decision offers insights to our future self. Kindness or rather loving kindness usually comes from the spiritual journey one undertakes as a result of questioning and reflecting on these experiences.

    At this juncture, through applying different strokes for different folks, i have come to learn depending on the situation, a combination of assertiveness (if required) , respect and regard, a dose of optimism with kindness and compassion could be incorporated.

    This article too is giving me a reason to step back and listen to your thoughts.


  3. It’s always a little serendipitous when you see something in writing that has been on your mind the past few weeks. I don’t typically make resolutions for the new year, but this January I’ve been thinking about how I can incorporate more kindness into my life. It seemed like such a simple thing when the idea first occurred to me, but making it more of a habit has been a challenge, especially in environments like work where traits like kindness aren’t typically emphasized. This article has given me something to think about – thank you!


  4. Well said, and I trust also well and widely received. In spite of real ups and downs in work and life, we shouldn’t forget that one of our purposes as leaders is to steer/guide/mentor others to recognize and work to their best potential (a positive sum game, most often punctuated by kindness), rather than bullying them (which makes it more about us and therefore a negative sum game). I once had someone thank me for the way he was terminated, which was very unexpected. In retrospect, I think that was a result that came from a defining moment in my career through the learning experience of a “Nine Hour Performance Review” ( Thank you for the reminder.


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