Today's blog in the #BeTheRippleBlogs series is a piece from a member of the #BeTheRipple team, Jayne Adamson. She is the People Lead at Humber Coast and Vale ICS.
You can find Jayne on LinkedIn: Here and on Twitter: @adamson0901
Over to Jayne:
UNITED AGAINST BULLYING - WHAT A DIFFERENCE KINDNESS CAN MAKE
2020 has been a difficult year with the Covid-19 pandemic changing the way we live our lives and changing the working world for lots of us along with increasing the challenges of how we all work together at a time of unparalleled uncertainty and stress. For most of us these will be the most difficult times in our memory. Our support mechanisms through our work has become more important than it has ever been, however work can be the source of that anxiety and make how we are feeling much worse increasing anxiety and harming our health and well-being.
The current pandemic has increased levels of stress and anxieties in a world where the ‘norms’ of how things should be have changed. Normally calm and focused employees are experiencing stress and in the frontline of our public services experiencing trauma that is resulting in an increase of psychological damage and burnout. This can show up in increased conflict between work colleagues and sensitivity to events between each other that can quickly escalate.
For most of us once you have finished your adolescent academic journey you will enter the world of work and again for most of us this means we will work with other people. This should be a positive experience but for lots of us that isn’t the case. Organisations intend to be caring and kind places but often turn out to be the opposite and as we know the places we work and how it feels to be part of them is in fact a product of all of us that work within them.
This variety of styles and approaches can create tensions that can result in bullying behaviours and allegations of bullying more formally , this has become normal but what we are living through is anything but normal.
Bullying is a difficult subject to speak about, as research shows if you are accused of bullying you are considered ‘evil’ and if you experience bullying you are considered ‘weak’. Bullying can impact organisations reputation and the leaders within it, it can impact the wellbeing of its people, those accused, those that are victims and the bystanders.
An organisation can develop a reputation as a toxic place to work with increased levels of absence, poor employee engagement and low productivity compared to other organisations. This can make it more difficult to recruit new people and retain the current workforce. There will be more employee cases and tribunals and the resulting negative publicity. These patterns will continue to cause problems for the organisation. Bullying behaviours can cause people to develop poor health that continues well after the episodes of bullying stop or when the employee leaves their place of work.
So, what can you do about it? What can make the biggest differences to your people? Can you make a difference as a leader? Kindness is what comes to mind and it appears the research backs this up. Good leadership is an act of kindness. Can kindness really make a difference?
The answer is unequivocally yes. According to psychology today kind bosses have been shown to increase morale, decrease absenteeism and retain employees longer, it has also been shown to decrease stress levels which improves health and well -being.
Leaders create the values and culture within an organisation by how they behave and how they treat others and as most often the most powerful people in the organisation they will be copied by those around them. No surprises then that a toxic bullying culture is created by those same leaders who if they behaved differently with compassion and kindness would create a different culture with different standards and expectations that was far more productive and positive for the people that work there.
Jacinda Ardern the Prime Minister in New Zealand quotes that ‘ I really rebel against this idea that politics has to be a place full of ego and where you’re constantly focused on scoring hits against each other. Yes, we need a robust democracy, but you can be strong, and you can be kind’.
20th century novelist Henry James wrote ‘ three things in human life are important, the first is to be kind, the second is to be kind and the third is to be kind. So, kindness matters. How do you go about developing a kindness culture that reduces the anxiety and stress levels that we are all experiencing through the pandemic and eradicate a toxic bullying culture which increases psychological safety and boosts teamworking.
Understanding what kindness can do in your workplace comes first. Kindness is a universal human need and along with trust, respect and safety support us to feel fulfilled and to thrive in the workplace. As a leader you can directly encourage kindness in the workplace. In doing so and fostering a culture of kindness you can create the environment for a happier workforce. Being kind comes from the heart not the head.
Social scientists are now using the phrase ‘ survival of the kindest’ rather than ‘survival of the fittest’ originally developed by Dacher Keltner based on his work on what drives our survival instincts. The three areas of the brain responses that do are avoidance, achievement and soothing systems, so when we feel safe, we live in a more connected way. A real struggle whilst we all live through a pandemic.
It would only take one person to change their behaviours and the ripple effect would kick in. Changing behaviours develops and eventually impacts group thinking and then the organisation and its culture shifts.
As a leader being aware of the tone that you set will begin this journey and focusing on a few changes will begin that ripple .
Creating a culture of kindness will make it difficult if not impossible for bullying behaviours to flourish and will develop meaningful connections in the workplace.
As Margaret Mead said ‘ A small group of committed people can change the world. It is indeed the only thing that ever has.
Thank you so much to Jayne for sharing this fab piece.
If you are not yet a member of the #BeTheRipple community, we would love you to join us. You can find us on Twitter: @BeTheRipple2020 and/or in our LinkedIn community: Here
Thank you once again to Jayne for sharing her work, illustrating the importance of having a kind organisational culture.
If you have been impacted by bullying or harassment of any kind, please speak to someone you can trust at work or outside of work and get some advice from your organisation or externally. You do not have to put up with people treating you unfairly or unkindly, at work or in any other setting.
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