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What Ellen’s story teaches us about kindness at work

Why kindness at work is an essential strategy for sustainable success in an increasingly uncertain world.

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What you say. What you do. And what you tolerate.

In Ellen Degeneres’s case she presented herself as having a “specific brand of relentless kindness” and as “the patron celebrity TV host of niceness“. Ellen is someone who has made a 17-year talk show career out of being kind and has been hugely successful doing so. Wikipedia states her net worth as $330 million. Yet story after story has emerged from the people working on her talk show of a toxic workplace. Ellen claimed that her organisation was too big for her to stay on top of everything.

What you say. What you do. And what you tolerate.

Ellen said one thing and, it seems, did the opposite. She built her brand on being kind. Now people are saying that simply isn’t true; that she was actively unkind and tolerated a toxic workplace culture. The accusations are that kindness isn’t one of her core values and a toxic workplace got her the results she wanted. $330 million.

But this isn’t an article about Ellen. Plenty of other people are happy to pick over the bones of the story and I would urge them to do so with kindness.

This is an article about a Kindness Revolution that is emerging in the corporate world. Forward-thinking leaders are elevating the value of kindness in their businesses because they see kindness as an essential strategy for sustainable success in an increasingly uncertain world.

Kindness is an ever-present vibration that becomes embedded within a company’s architecture. It is a default position, not an optional add-on. The entire inner-workings of a business ought to be infused with kindness. It is what the company stands for and stands on. It’s not just about doing kind things, it’s about being inherently kind.

Kindness should be seen as a foundation. Cementing it within the strategic framework of the organisation is the key to a solid, sustainable business.

Distilling the research, the evidence is clear: good people will be attracted to and want to stay working with a company that represents kindness. And customers will want to do business with it. Those are two of the most fundamental elements of any successful organisation, in any sector.

Every aspect of business can benefit from increased kindness. From sales and negotiations to people management and customer relations, each function of any business, large or small, can experience an uplift in performance if the value of kindness is elevated. 

This isn’t some idealistic notion. It’s a proven business phenomenon which more and more corporations are experiencing, many unknowingly, as the ripple of kindness builds momentum and sweeps gently into boardrooms, carried in on the hearts and minds of increasingly conscious individuals.

Our global business infrastructure provides a ready-made network for kindness to be carried from north to south, east to west in a wave of humanity that literally has the potential to save the world.

The world needs kindness now more than ever. Mental health is at and all-time low with depression and anxiety considered normal. Communities are increasingly polarised with simmering tensions between the haves and have-nots. A global health pandemic has made us realise how vulnerable we all are, and that only a collective response can cure us. More dangerous still, we are slowly destroying our own habitat, choosing self-gratification and quick wins over sustainable solutions that might give our planet half a chance of survival.

The key here is the word sustainable. Yes, we can make a quick short-term buck but a shift has occurred – if we want long-term success in any industry, being kind to those around you and the wider world, is a prerequisite.

The beauty of kindness is that it breeds kindness. You can start a kindness revolution within any size of tribe by embodying kindness yourself. Try this for just one day and notice the difference it makes. Be kind at work and witness an immediate transformation in your exchanges with people throughout the day. Do it the next day, and the next day and see how your influence snowballs.

Because kindness is contagious. It spreads exponentially. Transmit kindness to just one person and chances are it will touch, in some way, all who they encounter too.

Kindness is a ripple effect. It doesn’t come crashing in like an Atlantic wave. It gently emanates. And while that may seem less powerful, it has a consistency, inevitability and relentlessness in its emanation that far outweighs the force of a coursing tide that roars in, but ultimately withdraws.

Kindness never withdraws. Quite the opposite. Its concentric circles of influence keep widening. And never retract. Its vibration is infinite. It knows no boundaries. It is limitless.

Ultimately, kindness is a transmission. Its reach is only defined by the strength of the signal. Of your signal.

We spend one-third of our adult lives at work and yet 85% of us hate our jobs. There are too many toxic workplaces just like people have claimed the one Ellen ran. Kindness at work is good for people, good for the business and, as it ripples out, good for us all. What better place than work to start a kindness revolution?

How are you going to show kindness at work today?

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