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posted: 12/11/2019 1:00 AM

The impact of kindness on culture

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  • Mary Lynn Fayoumi

    Mary Lynn Fayoumi


November is always a special since it's my birthday month. This year I marked another trip around the sun by enjoying lunch with my Scorpio colleagues, practicing yoga with my fellow work yogis, and savoring delicious dinners with dear friends and family, as well as relishing a little "me time" (e.g., shopping, Netflix, and college football). Kindness was bestowed upon me throughout the month due to the incredibly supportive circle of people I am grateful to have in my life. So, it didn't seem serendipitous when I learned that World Kindness Day also falls the exact same week as my birthday.

While I am not typically a fan of what many call "Hallmark Holidays," I'll make an exception for this one. Why? Because kindness can impact anyone and results in myriad positive benefits for both the giver and receiver. And, it can be given out in large or small doses to groups or individuals on a regular basis at little expense. Kindness does not have to be planned out in advance, repeated, or documented. Sometimes a warm smile with a genuine "How are you?" or a brief text with a few emojis can brighten someone's day.

And, because we spend so much time at work, it is especially important to practice kindness while we're on the job. Learning of examples of kindness in the workplace warms my heart. Perhaps you also saw the recent news report about the late-night rush at a Waffle House in Birmingham, Alabama, where there was one lone cook on staff? Customers stepped in behind the counter to help him prepare and serve coffee and waffles to the hungry crowd. Or, do you also love reading the personal stories in Southwest Magazine about the thoughtful things crew members have done to help customers? From returning lost toys or electronics (which happened to me) to playing with and comforting unescorted minors, it's amazing the lengths the Southwest team will go to live their mission and demonstrate their culture.

Fortunately, there is no specific recipe for success or one size fits all to create the ideal corporate culture. In fact, there are a multitude of ingredients and variations on a theme that can all result in a culture that helps an organization attract, motivate, acknowledge, reward and retain productive, loyal and dedicated employees. Recently, while facilitating a session at a global HR Conference, the team I was working with shared some of the ways that they are making new employees feel welcome and special at their company. Most of the ideas were inexpensive or free and simple to implement. A few of the examples included posting a "We're glad you're here!" greeting on the video screen in the lobby, leaving a gift card for a local restaurant on the new employee's desk and printing a personalized welcome pamphlet with FAQ's about the organization and local area to help familiarize people during their early days on the job. These are just a few of the myriad ways that managers and co-workers can help send and reinforce positive messages that "show" as opposed to "tell" new team members what the culture they've decided to join is truly like.

If you need further inspiration to spread kindness during this holiday season, I recommend making time to see the new movie about Mister Rogers called "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood." I grew up watching Mister Rogers and admire the film's star, Tom Hanks, who delivers a stellar performance. Fred Rogers' legacy and enduring messages resonate now more than ever. In his honor, I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes and ask you to consider how you as well as your organization can expand on your practice of kindness in the year to come.

"There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind." -- Mister Rogers

• Mary Lynn Fayoumi, CAE, SPHR, GPHR, SHRM-SCP, is president & CEO of Chicago-based HR Source