Most mornings while eating breakfast, I read the financial news in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and Financial Times (FT). The WSJ gives me a North American viewpoint while the FT coverage is more Euro-centric. Their primary focus is financial news but include stories on sports, politics, and other topics. Occasionally, they write about religious news and books.
An FT opinion (Kindness in the workplace too often goes unrewarded: being considerate and caring towards others is wrongly characterised as a dull trait) dated December 14, 2019 by Pilita Clark caught my eye. She writes about a colleague coming to work “looking unusually pleased.” She learned that he had lost a wheel on his suitcase and after obtaining the replacement part via the internet, needed a special tool to repair the wheel. He took his suitcase and part to Alba Luggage (London) to have it attached. After 20 minutes, the job was finished. To his surprise, he was told that there would be no charge. “Just put whatever you like in there,’ said the man at the counter, pointing to a cancer charity box at the till.” Alba Luggage owner’s late father had been looked after by the charity and instead of charging for small jobs, he collected donations which each year amounted to about £2000.
Pilita was reminded “that kindness in business is oddly complicated. We delight in it on a personal level, yet we are unsure it is a good or even necessary quality in the workplace.” She cites positive research: “humble, unassuming bosses spur more collaboration which often improves company performance in the long run.” I agree with her. However, business does not always reward kind behaviors.
What shocked me was the author’s story about her colleagues discussing a question: “if Jesus were working among us, who would that person be?” I worked in London over seven years and never heard this question asked in my office! Her group identified one person. “He managed a team of people so considerately that he inspired a lot of loyalty. He listened to his underlings’ gripes and made sure higher-ups knew of their feats. He never lost his temper. He worked as hard as anyone and very often harder.” The interesting fact is that “none of this held him back from promotion, nor others of a similar ilk I have worked with since then.”
It seems that the worse fault associated with exhibiting ‘Jesus behaviors’ is being dull. “I know kind people and exciting, charismatic people, but few who manage to be both.” When I think of words that describe Jesus, I don’t think of ‘dull.’ Jesus was charismatic; the large crowds that followed him attested to his leadership qualities. Perhaps the writer is alluding to pious individuals who preach to others rather than let their kind behaviors speak for themselves?
The author decided to visit the man at the Alba Luggage counter. He “looked embarrassed when I asked about his non-charging policy.” Danny Barkany stated: “I don’t think we’re being kind. … Perhaps I’m a very bad businessman.” Alba Luggage has been in existence for over 40 years. Humility, kindness, and love are good business practices. People do notice. A simple act of kindness by a charity led to a charity box for small jobs. A colleague tells another colleague why he is pleased. A writer researches it and an opinion is published in the financial news. An American blogger writes about the FT opinion. A kind act spreads around the world and positively changes behaviors.
A reader commented on Pilita’s opinion. “I love how you’ve mentioned the actual shop. I know where to go now when I need to buy a suitcase.” Danny Barkany – you are a very good and kind businessman. Let’s all try to replicate your business model!