compassionate curiosity

Kindness, Gratitude, and Compassionate Curiosity – by Soumaya Khalifa

Embracing the Basics in 2022

It sometimes seems as if the business world has seen decades’ worth of change in the past two years.  Mass resignations, supply chain disruption, and safety and health protocols, to say nothing of the quick adoption of the technology needed for remote working (and schooling), we are all working in unfamiliar environments.  To be successful in this new world, we need to go back to the basic rules of good behavior: kindness, gratitude and compassionate curiosity.

Without the “water cooler” (whatever the gathering spot in your office might have been), we miss the opportunity to check in with each other. Given the limitations of video conferencing, it is hard to truly connect with the people who are part of our work lives.  We get “right to business,” forgoing the chitchat that makes a congenial workplace.  It will take an effort to build (and rebuild) connections and collegiality.  Along with recognizing those limitations we must redouble our efforts to be kind to each other.

The harsh reality of the COVID pandemic has made us all fiercely protective of ourselves and our friends and family.  Individual, corporate and national productivity will grow when we expand our protective instincts.  By promoting a culture of KINDNESS, behaviors marked by acts of generosity, consideration, or concern for others, without expecting praise or reward, employees will feel more connected.

Build and refine your organization’s culture to be more inclusive, and encourage an atmosphere where employees feel that they truly belong.  Research has shown that employees who feel valued are less likely to leave an organization. Training is needed for managers, supervisors and other staff on the value, impact and methods of creating a welcoming and kind work environment.  The organization needs to be consistent in its messaging and implementation, regularly monitoring progress and making adjustments when necessary.

As children, we learn that “saying thank you” is a fundamental part of life.  As adults, we know that GRATITUDE increases work performance and helps improve employee health and well-being. Feeling and expressing gratitude promotes a positive and happy mood. These “brain boosts” have significant positive effects on both attitude and output.

There are so many ways to express appreciation for our colleagues and their work, besides financial bonuses or increases, which are not in everyone’s control.  We can all acknowledge an accomplishment when it happens, send a thank you note, say thanks publicly, create a tradition of “gratitude moments,” and/or buy lunch.  Just as important as saying thanks is to ignore the small mistakes that happen along the way.  None of us is perfect: we can recognize success without nitpicking any errors in the process.

When it comes to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, your employees have the answers that you are looking for and their input is free.  When leaders show COMPASSIONATE CURIOSITY, they show an openness to listen and learn.   By seeking new information and exploring new possibilities, leaders will not only find more viable solutions, they will earn the respect of their teams and employees.  Relying on the diversity of experience and asking deep and caring questions, you will tap into a wealth of knowledge and potential.

While often seen as taboo, discovering the religious/faith diversity of your team can bring creativity to the surface.  When people are encouraged to bring their “whole selves” to work, they feel more valued.  Be curious and respectful; listen to your employees to learn and not to reply.  Sometimes that means asking if there are accommodations needed for someone’s religious practice.  Does a Muslim need a place for prayer?  Will a Seventh Day Adventist work on Saturday?  The only way to know is to ask.

Most organizations looking at DEI compliance focus on race, gender and possibly sexual orientation.  There are many different layers of diversity in our workforces. including faith or religion and religious practices.  According to the Religious Freedom and Business Forum, accommodating religious practices improves employee performance as well as the organization’s performance.  Of course, parameters must be established that support the company’s policies and positions, and allow for curiosity and engagement but not proselytizing or theological debate.  A simple, yet welcoming practice could include showing religious holidays or options for PTO on the corporate calendar.  Providing that information company-wide will encourage interest and dialogue, highlighting a corporate culture of belonging.

This year will bring many challenges and many more opportunities.  We have already learned to “pivot” and know now to be ready for the unexpected.  As we look forward to a more hopeful future, we realize that the strength of our teams lies not only in their diversity, but in our ability to be great organizations that have turned kindness, gratitude and compassionate curiosity into our path to greater productivity and success.


Photo by Mei-Ling Mirow on Unsplash

Soumaya Khalifa

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