Kindness at Work Pays Off: Now’s the Time

by | Aug 13, 2021


Improve your team with these tips for thoughtful management

Kindness is natural but it isn’t always easy. Use these management techniques for kindness to improve your team’s morale and performance.

Every day it was the same. As the postal carrier approached Rose Berler’s house in Alexandria, VA, he knew he’d find a bottle of water and a banana. Rose left the water and banana so, as she told him, he’d stay hydrated and keep his potassium up. She did this every day. It was the same with the men on the weekly trash truck. When they arrived at Rose’s house, she was waiting with water bottles and bananas for each of them. 

Rose recently passed away at the age of 95. Her son, Dan Berler who is a friend, professional colleague and the Transportation and Smart Infrastructure Market Leader at Battelle told me that he and his sisters were cleaning Rose’s house after she passed when the mail carrier came by. Dan went to meet him to let him know about his mom’s passing. The mail man, holding back tears, told Dan how much her small kindness made him feel appreciated. It wasn’t long before the trash truck rumbled down the street. Dan met the three men when they pulled up in front of her house. When they heard the news, three burly men climbed off the truck and out of the cab to shake Dan’s hand. They told him how much his mom – with her water bottles and bananas – meant to them. She made them feel special with her caring, thoughtful gesture. She, they said, was a special person.

Rose Berler was indeed a special person. One of the attributes that made her special was her ability to make others feel special. She made them feel like they mattered regardless of position or title.

Rose knew that small kindnesses aren’t so small. They have a big impact.

The same is true at work. Small kindness have a big impact. Yes, your staff and colleagues are paid to be there, just as the postal carrier and trash truck team were paid. But a paycheck is a paycheck. Small kindnesses show that an individual is MORE than a paycheck. During this period of “The Great Resignation,” kindness matters even more. In fact, it’s one of the few workplace superpowers without a blindspot. Given a choice to work in an environment that is kind or not, we humans choose kind. 

What are you doing to show kindness to others at work? 

Who would benefit from an extra boost of thoughtfulness? If this type of behavior doesn’t come naturally to you, no worries. Here are some management techniques for kindness to get you started:

Consider the projects

Think of the projects underway in your office and the people working on them. Could any of them (individually or as a team) use a boost? Think of teams or individuals working on a project that has: 

  • Hit a tough spot;
  • A demanding client;
  • Unwelcome attention; or
  • Tedious, detailed work.

Any of the people in these situations would benefit from a small act of kindness. What kindness can you show to them that would indicate your appreciation for their efforts?

Consider the people

Who in the office is going through a tough spot, has something to celebrate, or is struggling to balance work and life? Particularly as we face uncertainty (again) with the virus and working virtually and/or in-person, this is the time for an extra dose of kindness. Who could use a boost right about now?

Shelley’s Tip:
Maybe you aren’t in tune with the personal trials and celebrations of individual staff. It’s okay. I wasn’t either. However, someone in your office is. There’s someone whose superpower involves connecting with others. This person knows everything that’s happening with everyone in the office. Who is it? Make friends and ask them to inform you of key events in people’s lives. Then act on that information with a small kindness!

Have a kindness arsenal

Water and bananas worked for Rose but that may not be your best choice. Have an arsenal of options easily available. A card, homegrown tomato, fresh berries, flowers from the grocery store, a treat for their pet, or anything that indicates you are sending a bit of kindness works. You don’t have to be elaborate but if you want something a little special, below are a few options I’ve given or received.

  • Celebration cakes. People love these and they come in a variety of messages. Check out their other sweets for a yummy kindness.
  • Gift card for food delivery. DoorDash, Uber Eats, Grubhub or other option is a nice choice for those with an event that involves a crowd. 
  • Gift card for coffee.
  • Cakes. Nothing Bundt Cakes come in several sizes including small and mini varieties that are cute and tasty. 
  • Gift baskets. We use Olive and Cocoa for gift baskets particularly for the person who has been hunkered down behind a computer pounding out a deliverable. 
  • Flowers. A client sent a beautiful flower arrangement that made my day! 
  • Popcorn. We’ve used The Popcorn Factory for flavored buckets of popcorn or popcorn treats. 
  • Cookies. We found Cheryl’s Cookies with individually wrapped cookies.
  • Thank you note. Yes, an old-fashioned thank you note is still in fashion. Keep a stack handy to jot a quick note. If you prefer electronic cards, have a subscription that allows you to send something special with a moment’s notice. 

The work life for many has been and continues to be a struggle; managers and leadership aren’t insulated from those feelings. Remember, a simple kindness speaks loudly and it’s easy to give. It can make the difference between a day of drudgery and stress and a day with a smile and motivation. Take a moment to try one of these management techniques for kindness and make Rose proud.


Author Byline: Founder and CEO of Blue Fjord Leaders, Shelley Row P.E. CSP, was named by Inc. Magazine as one of the top 100 leadership speakers. Professional engineer and former senior executive, she was recognized as one of the best minds in advanced traffic management systems.

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