How To Infuse Kindness in the Employee Experience

May 30, 2023

Be kind is a simple statement that you likely heard many times as a child. As adults with stressful, complicated lives, kindness is sometimes overlooked at home and work.

As incidents of discrimination, hate, violence and inequities prevail, we have to deliberately seek out stories of kindness and infuse kindness into our daily experiences. There isn’t a "Sesame Street" or "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" for adults, but imagine if there was one!  

Is your workplace kind? Are your values and company culture fostering or inhibiting an environment of kindness? Are your leaders kind? How can internal comms and HR objectively answer these questions? You can find these answers with effective employee surveys, but don’t stop there.   

There are many opportunities to infuse more kindness in your employee experience. Get started with these workplace kindness ideas:  


@linkList; ;Interpersonal Communication;Career Growth;Employee Wellness;DEIB Strategies;Employee Appreciation       

Interpersonal Communication 

The words you choose to use in oral and written communications can foster or hinder kindness. Unlike written communication, conversations don’t have an edit button.

Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is delay your verbal response until you have time to think and respond calmly. By using these interpersonal communication tips, you can help ensure you’re building and maintaining kind relationships at work. If you are job hunting, human skills can help you get hired.  Employees want applicants with soft skills, including kindness and interpersonal communication.  

Honor Names 

First impressions matter. From your first interaction with an applicant, show that you honor names and honor the person. If you don’t know how to pronounce a name, the kindest thing you can do is just ask. And if you forget later, don’t be afraid to ask again!   

As part of your onboarding, make sure coworkers know how to correctly pronounce the names of new hires. At the start of every meeting, be sure to honor the person by asking, “How are you?”  

Empathetic Listening 

While you may be skilled in active listening, empathetic listening focuses on a deeper connection to understanding the other person’s emotional experience by going beyond the words that are said. To learn and master this skill, we recommend reading "Why Empathetic Listening Is Crucial for Your Career—and How To Do It Well."  

Put yourself in your employee’s shoes. This is how you can learn to understand what someone else is experiencing and show that you are truly listening.

If you are struggling with empathy in work conversations, learning simple empathetic statements can be a helpful starting point, especially when you are faced with negative feedback or other difficult conversations. This can help you fight the natural instinct to be defensive, which can escalate instead of de-escalate. These simple initial responses can be powerful:  

  • I understand that you feel… 
  • I’m sorry you experienced this. 
  • My intention is for you to have a positive experience. 
  • How can we make this better? 
  • Thank you for sharing your feedback with me. 
Create a Collaborative, People-First Environment  

Employees want to feel valued and want to work in an organization that values people first! The easiest way to do this is by asking for their input.  

However, when conducting employee surveys, don’t just ask for their input; be sure to report back on what you heard and incorporate it whenever you can. If you’re asking about something you can’t act upon or don’t plan to change, don’t ask about it. This is the real culprit behind survey fatigue.  

In addition to surveys, you can use an anonymous virtual suggestion box to find out how your remote team really feels to get instant, candid feedback. Additionally, help your team succeed by developing essential skills, like change agility and resilience.   

Read our blog, Think Before You Ask: Designing Employee Surveys for Actionable Data

Career Growth

According to the 2022 Workplace Learning Report, “Almost four in five L&D (79%) pros agree it’s less expensive to reskill a current employee than it is to hire a new one.” Helping your employees grow and reach their goals is not only kind, but vital for job satisfaction and retention.   

While you may not have the budget to hire new employees, you can invest in the talent you have! Embrace lifelong learning with a growth mindset.  

Constructive Positive Feedback  

Use the "4 Suits of Feedback" to give feedback that is truly helpful. The most useful feedback is classified as diamonds and spades, rather than hearts and clubs.   

Turn your sweet heart feedback into useful diamond feedback by incorporating specific examples with your positive statement. Instead of just saying, “I loved your presentation,” include what part you loved and why you loved it. When you need to give negative feedback, avoid the unspecific clubs, and follow the spades format to ensure it is specific, helpful and well-received.  

With practice, you can learn how to collaborate, listen and constructively receive feedback.

Reframe Mistakes as Learnings 

View mistakes as opportunities for growth. Instead of seeing them as failures, which can lead to negative emotions, reframe failures to be kinder to yourself and your team. What can you learn from this mistake? Thank your team for trying, and take steps now to proactively plan for future success.  

However, it isn’t as easy as it sounds to reframe mistakes. Here are three strategies from a Forbes article to help you try to reframe mistakes:  

  1. Acknowledge a failure, regardless of its size. 
  2. Look beyond the failure without trying to lay blame on yourself or anyone else. 
  3. Choose to learn from the failure.  
Support Personal and Professional Goals 

When employees receive promotions to manager positions, provide training to ensure they have the skills they need to succeed as managers. When contractors are seeking full-time work, inquire about how you can assist them to find the right opportunity for them, even if it means they will eventually leave your company.   

 According to a recent LinkedIn blog post, companies need to invest in career growth.   

“83% of employees report that improving their skills is one of their top priorities and 88% are already putting a significant amount of time and effort toward this endeavor. But most employees don’t believe they have the right conditions for career growth within their current organization. Only 26% say their organization challenged them to learn a new skill and 15% say their organization encouraged them to move to a new role.”  

Employee Wellness 

The heart of your organization is your employees. Wellness is essential to help your people and organization function well. Even in difficult times, empathy and employee wellness must be a top priority.   

For example, how you treat employees during layoffs (whether they stay or go) will impact how they handle the traumatic event and potentially harm their future mental health. “Losing your job is linked to a higher risk of suicide and elevated rates of mortality decades after being let go.”   

Mental Health Support and Stress Management  

The people who work at your company are humans who experience daily stress and need help with managing their mental health. How can you turn your work environment into a place that is as supportive of mental health disorders as physical illnesses?   

Lack of time is a major stressor for many people, both professionally and personally. While employees may wish for the superpower to control time, employers can make better time management a reality. There are many ways to create more time at work, including setting realistic deadlines, allowing for flexible schedules, reducing meetings, clearly defining team roles, and creating a more efficient workflow.   

Managers must strengthen their communication skills to ensure their employees are properly supported. However, the majority of managers are uncomfortable with even general communication, not to mention vulnerable conversations.   

“69% of managers are uncomfortable communicating with employees.” - Office Vibe 

How do we change this statistic and reduce employee stress? It takes proper training to equip managers with the skills they need for everyone to succeed! According to SHRM, “84 percent of American workers say poorly trained people managers create a lot of unnecessary work and stress.”  

When mental health is supported and endorsed by managers and leadership through role modeling, it makes it easier for employees to focus on their mental health. In addition to coworkers checking in on each other, managers can facilitate mental support by sharing their personal experiences and asking the following questions to their employees.  

  • How are you feeling? 
  • How can I help you? 
  • What would make your job easier? 
  • What’s causing you the most stress? 
  • What do you enjoy about your job? 
  • What would you like to do more of and less of?  

Update your benefits policy to include issues that are important to employee wellness, including mental health access, abortion access, parental leave, volunteer time off (VTO) and paid time off (PTO). When employees take PTO, encourage them to fully unplug from work.  

Learn How To Foster Psychological Safety at Work
Conflict Resolution  

Employees feel stressed when they don’t know how to resolve a conflict. Teach your people successful conflict resolution through workshops and laying out a clear plan for how to handle conflicts at work.

Better yet, how your team handles conflicts should be part of your performance management model to hold people accountable – along with any other behaviors and competencies your organization needs to succeed. When small conflicts are resolved before they become bigger, it is a win for everyone!  

Be Kind to Yourself   

Many people find it much easier to be kind to others than themselves.

It can be hard to turn off your brain when the workday is over. It’s hard not to internalize things that happen at work. Do you find yourself continuously thinking about work, replaying the same conversation or mistake over and over in your head? Learn to stop ruminating about work before it leads to burnout.  

Internal communicators are especially prone to doing too much, absorbing the stress of others and not seeking recognition. Remember to prioritize being kind to yourself. It's okay to say "no" or "not right now" to some projects to not spread yourself too thin. Learn how to be your own cheerleader by using insights from the Internal Comms Salary Report.   

DEIB Strategies  

“Yes, being nice is better than being mean, but it’s not dismantling racism; it’s not kindness, which is a form of compassion and will lead to creating action to support Black colleagues.” Lauren Castle, Alive With Ideas 

Becoming an anti-racist organization requires thoughtful DEIB strategies and everyone’s commitment and actions to truly be infused throughout the entire employee lifecycle. When you design accessible career sites and host accessible, inclusive meetings as well as consider the needs of neurodivergent workers, everyone benefits. 

Inclusive Language  

How organizations use language can deeply impact how we view race, gender and cultures. It takes conscious and continued effort to communicate in a way that is free of bias. Brilliant Ink is here to guide you with the principles to keep in mind as you write inclusive employee communication. Mental health language is an important consideration in building inclusive workplaces. 

Download Our DEI Style Guide for Inclusive Communications
Pay Equity and Transparency   

CNBC reported in January 2023 that “roughly 1 in 4 U.S. workers now live in a place where employers are required to share pay ranges by law.” According to The New York Times, “Pay transparency laws are ‘very good’ at reducing wage disparities.” 

This is truly a step in the right direction for pay equity and closing the gender and racial pay gap. Salary transparency is no longer a taboo topic, and organizations should carefully examine their models and reporting.

Clear Career Paths, Competencies and Promotion Processes  

Beyond government requirements to disclose pay, many forward-thinking companies are taking a more transparent approach to compensation and employee development. Organizations are recognizing that today’s employees want to better understand how their compensation is determined and seek clear career paths and promotion processes.

Brilliant Ink recently underwent a complete overhaul of its pay and title structure to create greater equity and gleaned insights that can be helpful for organizations of all sizes. You can read more about Brilliant Ink's open salary model and key learnings

Employee Appreciation  

Show employees appreciation and gratitude on a regular basis. Start by asking employees what type of appreciation is most valuable to them.

Be cautious when sending food as employee appreciation gifts. Be mindful to include employees with special dietary needs, such as food allergies, gluten-free, vegan and diabetes. No employee will appreciate receiving a gift they can’t eat or enjoy! Gift cards may work better and allow for more flexibility. There are meaningful ways to recognize employees that fit any budget.  

Manager/Leader Recognition 

Team members love to receive recognition from their managers and leaders. As managers recognize good work, they build loyalty and trust. There are many free and low-cost ways to recognize employees and say thank you. Simple words of gratitude can be as motivating as financial incentives!  

  • Recognize employees in team meetings. 
  • Provide praise during a 1:1. 
  • Give a shoutout on Slack. 
  • Send a thank you note. 
  • Feature the employee in a newsletter, blog or social post.   
Peer-To-Peer Recognition  

Peer-to-peer recognition programs uncover wins that a manager might not see, cultivate a more transparent culture and encourage teamwork. Sending kudos to a peer comes as a surprise and will certainly brighten the day. Brilliant Ink has worked with clients to develop and launch a number of recognition programs. Get inspired by four peer recognition programs we love.   

Celebrate Special Days 

Find ways to celebrate birthdays, work anniversaries and inclusive holidays deemed appropriate by HR. Use Kudoboard to create group cards online to celebrate remote workers.

From Employee Appreciation Day on the first Friday of March to World Kindness Day on November 13, you can celebrate special days throughout the year in meaningful, fun and creative ways.   

Find Out Why Employee Recognition Matters by reading our blog post.

In Closing 

With so many ways to increase kindness at work, you may feel overwhelmed deciding which ones to do. We recommend starting with small actions to improve communication, employee wellness and employee appreciation. As you focus on building a culture of kindness, learn how to avoid a toxic nice culture.

In case you need even more motivation to practice kindness at work, read "5 Reasons Kindness Matters at Work." From boosting productivity to creating a positive work culture, the entire organization benefits from kindness.  

“Remember, there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” —Scott Adams 

For more bite-sized brilliance, subscribe to our monthly employee engagement newsletter, the Inkwell, and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest

Sandra Robins

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