Creating a Culture of Caring and Kindness
A few months ago, I was invited to give a keynote at a university. As I thought about multiple inspirational topics, I decided on the topic of “caring”. In these days of public displays of rudeness, disrespect, and other forms of psychological harm, I think promoting acts and environments of positive interpersonal caring can go a long way. Smiles, saying thank-you, holding the door open, and when necessary, saying “I apologize”, are gestures that can lessen tension at work and perhaps even contribute to a sense of individual well-being and connection.
The Culture of Caring and its Expression in Different Work Settings
In preparing my remarks for the keynote, I was pleased to find that the Culture of Caring is a priority in many work settings, from universities to financial and tech companies. Healthcare organizations are one workplace in particular where patient care is primary, but as reported by Banner Health in Arizona, the “language of caring” among staff is also important. On their website, they cited how language to demonstrate caring is used. It begins with acknowledging one another, saying hello to someone by name if possible and using eye contact. If you sense someone’s frustration, you might say, I am sorry; I want to help you or I understand how you feel (Of course, for these comments, genuineness and relationship will matter).
In fact, most organizations recommend focusing on people and people relationships—and that it is not all about customer relationships. The Hyatt Company statement provides an expectation “To care for people so they can do their best”; the focus is on individual contributors in all of their workplace relationships—with peers and customers alike.
On the INC website are monthly postings from leaders about creating a culture of caring. Curt Richardson, Founder and CEO of Otterbox, discussed the ways to infuse the importance of culture into the workplace beginning with hiring interviews. These interviews are a way to determine someone’s sense of fit into the Otterbox workspace. Insomuch as all organizations have a culture informed by norms and values, Otterbox wants to find a match with potential hires. Additionally, employees are encouraged to participate in the OtterCares Foundation to give back to local communities.
Adam Fridman, founder of Mabbly, a digital marketing firm, shared his thoughts for building a culture of caring. He stated: A culture of caring isn’t just about caring for your employees and having them care for customers. It’s about caring why you do what you do in the first place. It’s about answering questions like, “Why you do what you do? What do you believe? How can you be most impactful?” Additionally, Fridman outlines five ways to build an organization’s culture of caring. Among these are “empower and engage” and “focus on relationships”.
In early May, I visited with a university highly engaged in an initiative to promote cultural competency and “inclusive excellence” among its students, staff, faculty, and administrators. A working group identified goals that could move the entire campus toward increased interpersonal respect and consideration, in other words, a culture of caring. One of the university’s first strategies was Kindness Week. I share their examples because the plan for Kindness Week is pragmatic and applicable in almost any university or workplace.
Kindness Week Practices
At WSU, the Chief Diversity Officer, with leadership from the President and other senior administrators and the diversity workgroup, developed several tactics since it was getting close to the end of the semester. First was a communication plan to promote Kindness Week. Signage around the campus and on monitors in different classroom buildings brought this to everyone’s attention. Another practice was a kindness button that individuals wore on an outer garment. The school’s colors featured prominently in the square button with bold lettering of Kindness Week. For finals week, the university provided many free events including coffee, resilience yoga, donut day, boxes for moving out, a choir concert, and pizza from the president. Other interpersonal acts of kindness were reported. One professor was standing in line to buy coffee and the person in front of her bought her the coffee. This then continued down the line among those waiting to make a purchase. Winona State is one exemplar university that brought the campus community together with different acts of caring and kindness.
As I was preparing this blog, a colleague shared about a kindness board at a high school where she had consulted. A note was posted describing an act of kindness and an attached note saying how it made the person feel. Not only did the postings give other individuals ideas on how to be kind, but it showed the impact of the kind act.
Kindness Week as an Application of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Practices
Many organizations have prioritized Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) strategic plans to support the organization’s mission and values. Often language is used to focus on promoting respectful behavior, reduce unconscious bias, and increase perspective-taking. I like to think that Kindness Week is an excellent and pragmatic practice to create an affirming culture of caring and a greater sense of inclusion for everyone.
You may want to check on the site, 100 companies that care, listing the best places to work. What is going on in your organization to promote kindness and caring? It would be great to hear from you. Please send to parredondo@arredondoadvisorygroup or post in the Comments section following this blog.