I was raised to be kind.
Kindness is a value I cherish and thank my parents for instilling in me. It’s heart-warming to see someone blossom when they’re treated with kindness.
I love it when people are kind to me and work to return the kindness. My orientation to reciprocatey was challenged during my time in corporate America.
Kindness isn’t a factor in performance evaluations. It’s not included in any competency models or hiring criteria that I saw. No training and development sessions about the importance and value of being kind were ever offered nor did bosses talk about the value of kindness in their staff meetings.
What was offered instead? Nasty stereotypes about people who are kind.
If you call for civility or a suspension of unmitigated, unfettered aggression, they call you a wimp. They think you are a wimp. ~Gary Namie, Workplace Bullying Institute
Bosses who supervise with respect are “seen as less powerful than other managers—less in control of resources, less able to reward and punish.” ~HBR Research
Nice people are labeled as being weak, submissive, perhaps not very bright, and without clout. These are adjectives that result in being promoted, placed on the high potential list, or viewed as a thought leader.
The stereotype that kindness equals weakness couldn’t be more wrong.
When I think back over my career, everyone of my least favorite bosses were unkind. I gave them professional respect yet didn’t want them as a mentor or see them as a role model.
But George was different.
He was my favorite boss. He was demanding, goal-oriented, driven. He pushed hard when outcomes were sub-par. He challenged us when he believed we were capable of more. He offered praise, appreciation, and thanks. He had our back.
He was kind. There was nothing weak about him.
George embodied NOT being the stereotype that being kind means you’re weak.
Showing people that a stereotype isn’t true is how stereotypes begin to change.
Stereotypes are based on preconceived beliefs and prior experience. So, in order to change those beliefs, people have to be exposured to people and situations that run counter to their predetermined expectations.
Do you wish there were more bosses like George in corporate America? Bosses who thumbed their nose at the “kindness is weakness” stereotype and treated their employees with kindness and respect?
If you share that wish, dare to be like George.
Show people that you can be kind and still hold them accountable. Respectfully coach them to better performance. Practice an equal mix of saying “thank you” and “I know you can do better. Let’s figure out how.”
Dare to question your assumptions.
Presuming that kindness equals weakness perpetuates the stereotype. Feeding the stereotype leads to prejudice that fuels discrimination. A paradox of life is that we want to be treated with kindness yet treat those who are kind to us without respect.
Dare to be different.
So, the next time someone acts as if you and your opinion matter, cares what you think, deals with you fairly—in short, treats you with civility and kindness—pause before assuming they are without power or smarts or influence. Because they probably have lots of both.
Daring to be different is how stereotypes start to change.
Ready to join in?
Image source before quote: Pixabay