Compassionate Management: Nice Guys Finish First

It’s a question that both parents and managers have been asking for years….Is it better to be nice and have people like you or is the tough approach better, where you demand respect and hard work? Most people assume it’s better to be tough, because after all, if you’re nice won’t you get taken advantage of?

It seems there have been some new developments in the field of organizational research...and for some, the answers may seem surprising.

According to Harvard Business School researchers, nice people do finish first….but it has to be tempered with the right strategies that keep others from taking advantage of them. When leaders project warmth workers relate that to trust, and employees feel greater trust towards someone who is kind.

Being fair is a critical piece to the puzzle. Studies show when leaders are fair to the members of their team, team members are not only nicer and more respectful of each other, but their productivity both individually and as a team improves. What’s more, leaders who are more self-sacrificing instill a greater sense of loyalty and commitment in their employees. Employees will even go out of their way to be helpful and friendly to other employees.

In looking at the body of research it makes sense that a model of trust and mutual cooperation may help create a happier culture, where employees help each other and thus gain productivity. In fact when looking at all the “perks” available to employees a Gallup poll showed that employee engagement predicted well-being above and beyond anything else. And as research suggest, a compassionate workplace fosters engagement, not by the material goods they offer, but through the qualities of the organizations leaders, their sincere commitment to values and ethics, genuine kindness and self-sacrifice.

Those in the “tough” camp feel putting pressure on workers will increase productivity and performance; unfortunately, what it really does is increase stress. And we have known now for years that as stress increases so does the cost to both employee and employer. Stress can also have an equally negative effect on kids, where they either become more aggressive or draw their stress inward.

This type of culture can help to put a lid on runaway stress. When we observe kindness our brain’s stress response is calmed. Our health even gets a boost with lower heart rate and blood pressure and a strengthened immune system. In fact, a good boss may literally be good for the heart!


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