Emily Mongan
Emily Mongan

We talk a lot about employee retention in this industry — and I mean a LOT. With the current employment climate of the sector, it would be unwise not to.

Providers know job applicants aren’t exactly beating down the door or sticking around too long when there’s a retail or hospital opportunity up the road with better pay. So they turn to ideas to make their workplace culture strong and “sticky,” like offering training and development programs, courting the millennial set, and investing resources in making sure workers are healthy.

But what about just being nice?

An “unkind” workplace can raise the risk of absenteeism, hike turnover rates, negatively hit customer satisfaction and serve a blow to communication, trust and teamwork, according to Susan Mangiero. Mangiero helps coach organizations on how kindness can be harnessed to improve employee relationships and the overall workplace vibe. Her new book, “The Big Squeeze: Hugs & Inspirations For Every Grown-Up Who Loves Teddy Bears,” delves into just that.

“Without strong, positive relationships, people can’t work together productively,” Mangiero says. “They can’t communicate well. They can’t innovate. And positive relationships cannot flourish in the absence of kindness.”

To Mangiero, kindness is the “secret sauce” that helps improve workplace culture and help organizations thrive, even in industries thought to be “un-nurturing.” To kickstart organizations’ focus on kindness she put together a list of 10 tips for any employee, not just those in leadership positions, looking for boost their company’s focus on kindness.

  1. Start with yourself. Being kind and nurturing others all starts with you, Mangiero says, so it’s important to “stop being so hard on yourself” when a work project or evaluation doesn’t go the way you would like. She also advocates practicing self-care through taking a short “me time” break each day, getting a massage, or participating in a hobby you enjoy. Speaking of hobbies …

  2. Take time to “play” or practice a new hobby to balance out your work. Make “play” time for something outside of work that you enjoy, like hiking, club sports or community theater. “When your life is all about work, it’s impossible to stay balanced,” Mangiero says. “Playfulness is vital for the creative energy you need to excel professionally and personally.”

  3. Volunteer. Helping out a good cause will keep you grounded and kind — and boost your resume at the same time, Mangiero says. She gives examples of tutoring kids, collecting food for a food bank or (and I can personally vouch for the therapeutic aspects of this one) walking shelter dogs.

  4. Keep in touch with friends and family. Work can get crazy, Mangiero acknowledges, but it’s crucial to stay in contact with the people closest to you, even if they live far away. “You have to nurture these established relationships to get the most from them, the same way you would nurture new relationships,” she says.

  5. Celebrate the “Wow!” moments. And not just your own — being kind and nurturing others means taking the time to applaud other peoples’ accomplishments. That applies to coworkers who may have gotten a promotion while you didn’t. That praise will be remembered and come back around eventually, Mangiero says.

  6. Practice your manners. We all learned this in preschool, but a little “please and thank you” goes a long way, especially in high-stress times.

  7. Make shy, left-out people feel comfortable. “Make it your duty to be kind and welcoming to those in your office who may feel excluded from the group,” says Mangiero. “You will be doing what’s right, setting a good example, and maybe even making a new friend.”

  8. Write thank you notes. Make it a practice to do this — with a pen and paper — whenever somebody goes “above and beyond for you,” Mangiero says. It’s a nice gesture, but in the workplace it can also help set you and your culture apart from others. “You never know who might remember your politeness; a gracious thank-you could help you win a new client or advance to a higher position,” Mangiero says.

  9. Listen! Do this more than you talk. Be open to new opinions, and acknowledge that no matter how high-ranking you are, you don’t know everything. “In business, it’s also a way of distinguishing ourselves from the competitors who don’t embrace the importance of letting someone else talk,” Mangiero says. “In a hurried world, the lost art of careful listening is a good skill to develop.”

  10. Provide a shoulder to cry on. Providing comfort is something folks in the long-term care industry are (or should be) well-versed in. A little bit of support can go a long way. “Really taking the time to be present will make them feel heard and supported, which is crucial to building trust.”

This may seem like fluffy advice, or even the makings of a pushover in the workplace, but Mangiero disagrees.

“To the contrary, being kind is a show of strength,” she says. “Throughout your professional journey, commit to being kind to everyone you encounter along the way, and you will reap the many rewards that come from caring for and connecting with others.”

If one of those rewards is employees feeling valued and sticking around, well, then that little kindness will have gone a long way.

Follow Emily Mongan @emmongan. Email her at [email protected].