While cruising through the bread aisle at the supermarket yesterday, I noticed that someone had left a shrink-wrapped package of hamburger within the display of whole wheat bread. The raw meat package felt lukewarm to the touch. I then notified one of the store clerks. He followed me to the shelf and thanked me. The clerk shook his head and told me this sort of thoughtlessness happens several times per day. The perishable products must be discarded due to the store’s policy regarding health concerns. Of course, the costs of the losses are passed along to everyone else.
I later reflected that being considerate and thoughtful when selecting then later deciding not to purchase anything is not only helpful to store clerks, but is beneficial to customers, too–regardless if the product is perishable or not. Whether one is unkind or kind has real-world consequences. I’ve worked retail myself, so I understand this all too well.
“You either believe that people respond to authority, or that they respond to kindness and inclusion. I’m obviously in the latter camp. I think that people respond better to reward than punishment.”–ambient and electronic music pioneer, Brian Eno
In most instances, I agree with Eno’s approach. Harshness in our dealings with others tends to produce resentment, and dishonesty in others. I am reminded that parents who are overly stern with their children tend to raise dishonest offspring. The kids do not feel that it is safe to be frank and honest because they will be violently punished for doing so. The anecdotal evidence, that I observed as a youth, in many instances with my childhood friends and classmates, affirmed this. Meantime, the children who had less volatile, more kind-hearted parents were likewise more kind to their classmates and were more honest, overall. The children did not fear the wrath of unkind parents when they made mistakes. They were still reprimanded and given age appropriate punishments. The punishments were better suited to the mistakes. The point being that children require love, appropriate justice, consistency, stability, security, and kindness.
Another aspect of unkindness versus kindness shows up in the adult world of work. I’ve noticed that when management and supervisors are overbearing, inappropriately strict, and mean-spirited, the employees suffer. I’ve worked for two companies that utilized fear and paranoia to control their workers. The work environments were highly toxic. The employees constantly looked over their shoulders in fear that the bosses would severely scold them for unintentional mistakes. This caused less efficiency on the job and high employee turnover.
The lack of trust, warmth, grace, and kindness on the part of the supervisors was incompatible with creating healthy work environments. Few people are willing to work at a job where the boss chews you out every day. As with the harsh parents, the toxic workplaces fostered dishonesty among the employees. Lying was often used as a technique to avoid raising the ire of bosses.
Meantime, I was fortunate to finally find employment in workplaces that had thoughtful, kind managers who supervised their employees with fairness and dignity. If an employee screwed up, he felt safe in approaching the manager to report the error. There may have been a reprimand, but it would be appropriate in degree. The healthy workplace helped foster smoother teamwork and comradery between management and labor. This, in turn, showed that kindness paid off in many ways, including profit.
“If you have the chance to be exposed to a loving, understanding environment where the seed of compassion, loving kindness, can be watered every day, then you become a more loving person.”–Thich Nhat Hanh
The point of today’s ramble is to remind myself that kindness works wonders, whether one shares or receives it. Kindness is a practice that helps us become better versions of ourselves. Likewise, this works when we receive kindness, we are also encouraged to be better versions of ourselves. You might say kindness creates win-win scenarios.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes actress, Betty White. “When I pontificate, it sounds so, you know, Oh, well, she’s preaching. I’m not preaching, but I think maybe I learned it from my animal friends. Kindness and consideration of somebody besides yourself. I think that keeps you feeling young. I really do.”