Franklin D. Roosevelt said "Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough." I read these words the other day for the first time and felt such an overwhelming sense of relief. Probably because my entire adult life I've been told things like:
"No one will take you seriously if you're smiling all the time."
"A woman can't be successful and kind at the same time."
"You're not hard enough on your team."
It's always frustrated me that treating people well in the workplace is considered to be a weakness. It's as if they're saying you must be cutthroat and controlling to be good at your job. I couldn't disagree more. After reading those words by FDR, I was reminded of a study I read about last year. It was done back in 2019 and looked at how human kindness in the workplace affects a company's culture.
The study showed how kind and generous behavior creates a more trusting, satisfied, and happy workforce. Through basic acts of kindness, one company discovered the benefits of being kind went far beyond the Receivers.
The study randomly assigned employees in a Spanish corporate workplace to be Givers, Receivers, and Controls. Givers practiced 5 acts of kindness for a personalized list of Receivers over four weeks.
The study showed that Givers and Receivers both immediately experienced greater well-being. Additionally, the Receivers remained happier after two months, and Givers were less depressed and more satisfied with their lives and their jobs. What’s even better, the Givers’ kind acts actually inspired the Receivers to pay it forward with 278% more kind behavior than the Controls. The results show that when companies create kinder cultures, teams get stronger, trust increases, and overall job satisfaction improves.
As we struggle today to get past The Great Resignation, it's even more clear how important a kind culture really is. I like to believe that while kindness used to be perceived as weakness, we're finally starting to understand it's critical value in helping a company succeed. People that are treated kindly are happier, healthier, and more likely to show kindness to others. People that treat others kindly are less depressed and more satisfied at work. So no, a nation does not have to be cruel to be tough, and neither does a person.
Source: Chancellor, J., Margolis,S., Jacobs Bao, K., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2018). Everyday prosociality in theworkplace: The reinforcing benefits of giving, getting, and glimpsing. Emotion, 18(4), 507–517