‘Kindness’ has no particular definition. What is generally perceived as kindness is the act of trying to ignite hope in people’s minds when the odds are going against them. While the world faced a tough battle, millions of people lost jobs overnight, wages were cut — completely for some and partially for others —and people lived in fear unable to come to terms with all that was happening around them. Time, however, does not stop for anyone, and life goes on. During such hard times, all we can do is make each other feel comfortable by showing some kindness.
Emmanuel David, director, Tata Management Training Centre
When it comes to the professional world, kindness is relative. Different sets of people may have different opinions. For instance, for an employer, a marginal salary cut may be an act of kindness to help save the job of an employee, but the affected worker may not perceive this act as kind. The question that arises is, how much kindness can maintain the right balance between business interest and employee well-being.
Even before that, what we need to know is whether we are at all in need of kind leaders now. Answering this question, Nitin Thakur, head – learning and development, Jindal Stainless, says, “The need for kindness can’t be defined by an era or time period. A crisis may descend any time and on anybody. So, the world always seeks kind leaders.”
The hybrid work culture may not be new and equally challenging for all. Therefore, the first act of kindness towards the employees would be to show faith and trust in their professionalism and commitment. No change is absorbed overnight. Therefore, the new work culture and schedule is something that organisations have to make their people adjust to, with patience and compassion. Talking about this, Thakur further adds, “Compassion brings family values into a working environment. Induced ethical values help build a great team, wherein the members are expected to be responsible towards each other. Otherwise, the productivity of the organisation, as a whole, is affected.”
Nitin Thakur, head – learning and development, Jindal Stainless
Hard times may come and go, but what stays with people is the gesture. Within an organisation, however, leaders may have their hands bound after a certain limit. Agreeing to this fact, Seema Singh, chief human resources officer & chief finance officer, India Post Payments Bank, says, “The times we are going through are extremely tough for everybody. It is as hard for the employees, as it is for the employers to restructure the working model and make productivity fall into place. Therefore, we should understand each other as we pass through it all.”
She then goes on to point out that a professional approach sets a certain limit to which leaders can be kind. “Senior leaders in a company are also bound by certain protocols, when it comes to being kind. We understand and empathise with the pain of our subordinates and colleagues, but at times we are left with no choice but to take tough calls.”
“Leaders should be mindful,” advises Emmanuel David, HR leader and business partner, Tata Group, suggesting a balanced approach. He explains, “At present, leaders need to be thoughtful, but at the same time kind. During this time, it is highly important that we keep a balanced approach of professionalism and kindness. For instance, if an employee or his family member falls sick, leaders of the organisation should be more responsive. We are going through such a time.”
Taking the discussion to the goodwill of an organisation, David further adds, “Generally, leaders are allowed to show kindness within a limit as set by the company policies, but no effort goes waste. Any act of kindness by leaders gets noticed when it goes beyond those policies. Employees may or may not come up to the kind leader to appreciate his gesture and thank him repeatedly, but they will definitely share the experience with other colleagues. This, in turn, uplifts the humanitarian side of the leaders.”
Seema Singh, chief human resources officer & chief finance officer, India Post Payments Bank
Stressing on the fact that this is the time period of distress, and that only the kindness of leaders can help people sustain, David says, “There are certain times when the leaders have to take tough calls, but the leader’s kindness shows in the way he communicates the same to his subordinates. But here, the employees should also understand that the leader is not taking a decision by personal choice and that he is not a bad person. It is only his profession and designation that demands rudeness after a certain level.”
Clearly, people are troubled and many companies are only adding to their woes by taking tough decisions, which may appear unkind, at least superficially. However, that is exactly why people will also look up to kind leaders who come forward to their rescue and help them out of the distress. Even though the extent of kindness and the fact whether the act is kind enough or not is relative, depending on which side of the coin one belongs, people will still expect their leaders to be kind during these challenging times.