We can design kindness into working life just as easily as unkindness

kindnessIf I were to suggest that organisations were designing their processes, policies and relationships with unkindness at the core, you would probably reject it as an illogical proposition, it just doesn’t make business sense. It goes against the grain and against the values that are plastered on the walls of so many organisations. But as counterintuitive as it may seem, in my opinion, many organisations have done just that, designed unkindness into the things they do, albeit inadvertently. But if they can do that, they can also design kindness in too.

Thirty years of working in different organisations, both in the UK and in South Korea, have given me experience of what I call ‘The Good, The Bad and The Just Plain Ugly’ in terms of systems, processes, policies and relationships. The things I term the ‘bad’ and the ‘just plain ugly’ include areas such as: Individualism; profit over people; solely top-down communication; formal review processes not combined with real-time honest conversations; conformity over creativity; inertia over innovation; competition over collaboration; the list goes on and on.

Self-perpetuating ecosystems of mediocrity have the ‘bad’ and the ‘ugly’ at their core. These types of organisations exist rather than excel and, at best, survive rather than thrive. Anyone who has ever worked in this type of organisational culture will know that it is soulless: draining energies, mentally exhausting, “consumption versus contribution” (an astute term coined by Kirsty Mac at an event I attended recently, hosted by People and Transformational Human Resources Ltd).


Shake the frame

So, here’s the question: If systems, policies and processes perhaps are not the most enlightened, does that really mean that unkindness has been designed in?

Let’s consider ‘individualism’. I mentioned it as an example of ‘bad’ or ‘ugly’, but you could easily argue that it is quite the opposite and actually has many benefits. This perfectly illustrates the importance of design and intent. When designing individualism in whilst looking through a lens of kindness and care, systems will be driven with a people-centric approach, ensuring that people can be their authentic selves at work, perform to their strengths, bring different skillsets to their team and take accountability. However, if designed without a kindness lens, individualism can encourage people to care solely about their own targets as opposed to the team win and there will be a very different impact, creating a breeding ground for poor behaviours.

It’s a pretty simplistic example, granted, but it illustrates how perhaps organisations are not intentionally designing unkindness in, rather that they are not taking the care to design it out.

It’s time to shake the frame, to take a different perspective on the systems that drive operations and look at everything through a kindness lens, redesigning and building back better, putting people at the heart of every policy, process and relationship.

Creating a ‘Kindness at work operating system’ is easy, it simply takes the belief and the heart to use a kindness lens when looking at ‘the way things are done’,  intentionally designing kindness in and at the same time intentionally designing unkindness out.