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Why it can be cruel to be kind in the workplace

Why it can be cruel to be kind in the workplace
Financial TImes
By Andrew Hill
Published: December 4, 2017

Alongside the predictable specifications for a job vacancy at the Financial Times — problem-solving, tenacity, and so on — is one I haven’t seen before. The ideal candidate must “exude kindness”.

As a rule, I would say that if you are actually sweating a quality, you are probably trying too hard. Nobody thinks “he oozes niceness” is a compliment. The requirement does, however, raise an interesting question: at work, how much kindness is enough, and how much is too much?

What is more, research confirms workplace warmheartedness has wider benefits. A University of California study at Coca-Cola’s Madrid site showed workers who benefited from small acts of kindness amplified their own positive behaviour — “paying it forward” — while givers and receivers felt a greater sense of autonomy, and were happier all around.

Another study in the Academy of Management Journal highlighted the importance of “companionate love” in the male-dominated world of firefighting. When combined with a culture of “joviality”, acts of kindness — such as raising money to help a financially troubled colleague hang on to his house — moderated risk-taking and reduced health problems triggered by the strain of balancing work and family.

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