If Not Me Then Who? If Not Now, When?

At a meeting recently I heard a colleague say that there should be no limit to kindness. On Twitter hastags of #BeKind #kindness abound, so there is no doubt that there is sense of the need for more kindness.  

Kindness is characterised by being self-aware and by caring about the impact that we have on others. It requires putting ego aside and engaging in empathy. In organisations where kindness dispositions are built into the very fabric of human relationships, incivility and bullying have no space to thrive.  Kindness as a way of being, fosters a workplace environment where people can flourish and where being at work can be a life enhancing experience. 

What is incivility really, but the absence of kindness? We know that anti-bullying policies alone have limited effect on the eradication of incivility and bullying in the workplace. There are a number of factors that influence this, not least of which is poor implementation. Our research has revealed that participants’ experiences were overwhelmingly negative in respect of organizational responses, despite the fact that organizations have invested much time in creating an anti-bullying policy artefact. There was clear awareness of failure or unwillingness to address the complex power relations in the workplace both in schools and universities. It is little surprise then that bullying and incivility flourish in these environments.

It certainly raises the question that if zero tolerance approaches are not working and if creating policies that require people to keep records of abusive behaviour are not working (not to mention the problems that this has on the resilience for people) why do organisations still rely on these ineffective policies.   The answer is complicated but is linked to a distinct failure to recognise that complex power relations underpin the problem and the organisation itself is a key player that feeds into and sustains the incivility/bullying dynamic. 

Clearly a different focus is needed.  Deeper understanding of the role of workplace culture is needed if we are to engage effectively with the problem. In parallel to violence breeding violence, conversely kindness breeds more kindness but we seem to be reluctant to give it a try. In the same manner as bullying breeds a toxic culture that ripples out into the workplace, kindness breeds positive work culture that also positively ripples out into the workplace.   We need to break the cycle of toxicity, and it needs to start somewhere.

A teacher wrote of our research that it “caused me to reflect on my own teaching journey. I for one will be standing up to improve the work culture in our schools.”

If she can, then I can and so can you… 

If not me then who?

If not now, when?

Food for thought,