Kindness as a Corporate Virtue
When you think of corporate virtues, you might produce a list like this:
- Make money without doing evil.
- Establish shareholder value.
- Prioritize the customer.
- Work toward the common goal.
Many companies have such a list on their websites, usually under titles like, “How We Operate,” “Who We Are,” “Our Mission,” or “Core Values.”
But I used the word virtue in the title of this article instead of value.
“The Platinum rule means there’s no drive-by compassion.”
Corporate values vs. corporate virtues
Values are ideals or guiding principles a corporation wants to be known for and wants its employees to abide by and work within. Virtues, on the other hand, are qualities that are generally considered to be desirable in a person. A virtuous person within a corporate culture, therefore, has a positive influence on the corporate culture.
So, although a corporate value may state “We will all focus on the customer,” any given employee may choose not to do that. Instead, they may focus on a specific task, getting all their work done so they can leave early, or building up their PTO so they can take two weeks off next month. Corporate values come down from on high and employees are expected to live by them, even if the employees had no say in creating these values.
I’m not saying companies shouldn’t have corporate values—they should. They can be helpful to a point.
But what if a company focused more on virtues as values?
At Big Nerd Ranch, they state, “Our values didn’t spring fully formed from a corporate retreat worksheet. They were built upon organically over the years, and only written down once we realized we were already living them day in and day out.”
Did you catch it?
As the founders and employees lived out desirable virtues, they realized those were the values they wanted as a company. In case you are unaware, here are the values at BNR:
- Brilliant and curious.
- Hardworking and accountable.
- Kind and authentic.
I want to focus on Kindness.
The Platinum Rule: a virtue that leads to value
Kindness involves treating people with compassion, empathy, and respect. You might go as far as saying that kindness means treating others as you want to be treated. Kindness, at its heart, is a version of the golden rule—an adage found in some form in many cultures and religions.
It’s a good rule, isn’t it? You want to be treated with respect, so why not treat others with respect? Insert any value or virtue into the golden rule equation, and it should make sense as a guide for engaging and interacting with people in our companies and client relationships.
I’d like to suggest instead that we consider the Platinum rule:
The Platinum Rule
Treat others as they wish to be treated.
If I view everyone as just like me, I ignore their uniqueness, their background, their story, and their particular circumstances in the moment. I make myself the measuring rod by which all others should be treated—treating others as I want to be treated.
Corporate empathy in process and in practice
What if I just assume I know, based on my white, male, middle-class upbringing, college-educated, suburban background, what others may need or want or deserve? How can I engage in a corporate virtue of kindness if I don’t really know the client in front of me or the employee beside me (even if they are on a Zoom call)?
Acting with kindness and empathy means involving ourselves, as is appropriate, with other people. How do they want to be interacted with? How do they prefer to receive compliments or be engaged in conversation?
The Platinum rule means there’s no “drive-by compassion.”
Could living a corporate virtue of Kindness mean that we don’t sequester ourselves in self-made echo chambers? Could making a corporate virtue of Kindness a reality involve being less terrified of the unknown, of the other? Could living Kindness with our co-workers and our customers mean we become less focused on our group, our social media safety blankie, on the Me?
The golden rule is a wonderful measuring stick but without love for our fellow human beings—expressed in kindness—it can become the aluminum rule: Treat others as you want to be treated, but only if the others think like you.
Can we not elevate ourselves to the Platinum level of kindness? Wouldn’t that be a wonderful corporate culture to work in and live out?
I’m humbled to be a part of a work culture where Kindness is a reality. Here’s to it spreading and strengthening!