Compassion and kindness at work isn’t some tree-hugging ideal; it is good for the P&L compassion at work is good for the bottom line

Compassion at work is good for the bottom line

“It’s not my job to be kind; if you want kindness see the chief kindness officer,” said the boss. But actually, we all know the problem with that statement. Being kind isn’t a role you delegate or outsource. Kindness by design may seem like a clumsy way of saying something obvious, yet it would appear it needs saying anyway.

According to a Gallup report Employee Burnout: Causes and Cures, 21 per cent of employees say they very often experience a feeling of burnout, and 48 per cent say they sometimes feel like that. Yet, according to the Gallup report, “Burned-out employees are 63 per cent more likely to take a sick day and 2.6 times as likely to be actively seeking a different job. Even if they stay, they typically have 13 per cent lower confidence in their performance.”

In other words, it matters — burnout is only one aspect of staff mental health, of course, but the Gallup poll illustrates an important point — poor mental health policies cost money. 

According to a Deloitte report — Mental health and employers, Refreshing the case for investment January 2020: “Poor mental health costs UK employers over £33 billion. It said: “We…[estimated] the return on investment of workplace mental health interventions by employers, and found that for every £1 invested, employers received £4 back.” 

For Peter Abrahamsen, counsellor, motivation and confidence coach, compassion is the key, but whether you call it compassion, or kindness, what you can’t do is hand that particular role of management over to someone else.

“A compassionate and professional company culture doesn’t mean saying yes to everything and falling around on the floor crying,” he said. 

And that is the key point — there is money in compassion. That doesn’t mean you should be compassionate because it will boost the coffers, you should be compassionate because you are human, but we now know there is no need to hide your humanity or disguise an innate tendency to kindness behind an autocratic exterior.

Peter, along with other illustrious experts on the topic, will discuss the profitability of kindness and the risk of not being kind at the #Risk conference in November

It is an important topic; odd that it is only just coming into vogue when the principles underpinning kindness at work are quite obvious.

A demotivated and anxious workforce is a business risk

Mr Abrahamsen says: “Organisations have to treat their employees of every rank as human beings. That means creating a business culture that does not make people sick – mentally or physically. That is the responsibility of the CEO. But everybody is responsible for maintaining that culture.

“When an organisation supports its people when they bring into work issues caused by events outside of work, the organisation will get a stronger and more loyal workforce.

“A demotivated and anxious workforce is a business risk. When your mental health is in bad shape, your cognitive abilities are subdued, and you cannot focus, think, or make good decisions. Mistakes happen, balls are being dropped all over the place. This affects your customers and suppliers who will go somewhere else. A company with a bad reputation also finds it difficult to recruit.”

In short, being kind or compassion at work is good business.

Money the great motivator?

But isn’t that what pay is about? A more traditional mindset might suggest that we are paid to leave our problems out of the workplace — that it is professional to set aside our own issues and get on with the job.

But there are two issues with that traditional approach,

For one thing, it is not realistic. We are human; at least I assume you, the reader of this, is human (apologies to robots reading this, no offence was intended), and humans can’t — they simply cannot divorce their approach to work from all those mental and physical issues that are constantly operating in the background. We just can’t. 

The second issue was ably explained by Dan Pink in one of the most popular of Ted talks. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that money is not the most important motivation at work for most people. That doesn’t mean, of course, people don’t expect to be paid and paid fairly, but the financial bonus for every task done well, or even for annual performance, may not be the best motivation technique.

Kindness, compassion and linked to that transparency from management might be a good motivator, however, 

Peter talks about the importance of bosses engaging with staff, and a traditional barrier to this is a fear that by doing this, they may lose authority.

But Peter says: “If you don’t trust someone, that person won’t trust you.

“There has to be consistency and kindness and compassion has to be a way of life, embedded into a company

“Being kind has to be something the CEO wants.”

But Peter saved his most telling comment to last: “Culture in business is determined by the lowest standards and behaviours condoned by the CEO.”