Kindness is Contagious

Think about the last time you walked into the office. Were you in a rush. Late for a meeting. Just wanted to get to the desk. Did you flash a smile at a passer by? No. That’s a shame.

It’s easy to forget in our busy lives that it’s not only viruses that are contagious but how we show up in life is also contagious. Have you ever practiced the art of paying it forward or just a simple act of kindness. Thankfully many of us are quickly realising the potential of our own impact and influence. For the better.

I listened to a podcast last week on the theory of ‘busyness’ and how that is also an epidemic right now. Ask anyone how they are and the response likely comes in the form of swamped or flat out. It’s almost a badge of honour these days and even more so if the boss is leading the choir.

As humans we naturally feed off each others energy. In the workplace this happens along with the constant scanning for social cues and what seems to be acceptable around us. But let’s get back to kindness.

Research proves that kindness has a ripple effect. It’s contagious even!

Jamil Zaki a Stanford psychologist documents the concept of “positive conformity”.

“Participants who believed others were more generous became more generous themselves”.

How can we spread kindness over busyness in our organisations?

If your team is continually spruiking how busy and burnt our they are, chances are it’s affecting your business.

Workplaces can provide an opportunity to create happy people and improve lives if you have a great working environment.

If you have a great working environment then it is also highly likely your team will go the extra mile for clients and go over and above. Better yet if they are experienced in empathising with others and spreading kindness then expect that to flow over to your customers or clients as well.

Let’s look at the pros and cons real quick

Pros and Cons

Negative side effects
The expectation of employees is to go the extra mile for the customer. We know it improves client loyalty, referrals and retention but let’s face it if people aren’t happy at work this is unlikely to occur. Christine Porath Associate Professor at Georgetown University and TED speaker on energising workplaces identified that people exposed to rudeness are three times less likely to help others, and their inclination to share drops by half.

Positive side effects
The opposite happens with kindness. Respectful engagement amongst teams and healthy interactions also allows individuals to feel more comfortable sharing ideas, they are more willing to listen to each other and support each other.

This lays solid foundations for creativity and more effective problem solving which dare we say, leads onto innovation.

This is again supported with Jane Dutton’s research at the University of Michigan, concluding respectful engagement with individuals and teams does in fact enhance creativity!

Patient Case Study – Mercedes-Benz unleash the contagion
Let’s look at this in action.

The Harvard Business Review conducted an interview with Stephen Cannon then CEO of Mercede’s Benz USA. Cannon recognised that success was about more than just his vehicles. It was about how much the people who sold and serviced the cars cared and how generously they behaved. “Every encounter with the brand,” he declared, “must be as extraordinary as the machine itself.”

It goes on to state examples where staff had acted on their own will to go out of their way. One dealer realised once he’d closed a sale and was filling out forms that it was in fact the customers birthday.

The dealer arranged a cake and celebration when the customer came to collect their vehicle. Another is a customer in desperate need of a tyre after getting a flat on her way to her child’s graduation.

They were out of stock of the tyre required but the service manager went out of his way by jacking up and removing a tyre from a showroom model.

But why were these employees so happy to go out of their way? Things rapidly evolved when Hendrik Hynekamp became the first-ever general manager for customer experience at Mercedes-Benz. Hynekamp identified that 70% of front-line employees had never driven one of the cars outside of the dealership.

For these employees to take pride in the brand he needed them to experience the joy of driving a Mercedes-Benz. So, he developed a program where each dealership employee (23,000) were able to drive a Mercedes-Benz for 48 hours. As you can imagine the reactions were extremely positive but Hynekamp states ….

“Sure, people got to know the cars very well. But the biggest piece was the pride piece.”

So, whilst there may be no blueprint, no process in place to instil kindness in your workforce you can be assured that kindness can organically disseminate.

You can speed up the distribution by leading by example and using recognition to reward examples you find amongst your team. However, small they may be to begin with. Cultivate your contagion by creating the right conditions and watch it spread.

Positive workplace cultures create happier employees which create better experiences and a happier world. Here’s to creating happy workplaces and happy people!

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