Does kindness have a proper place at the office? Or is it found mostly on a stool in the corner with a small but definite dunce cap?

On the one hand, employees might be inspired by the likes of the Dalai Lama, who said, “This is my simple religion—Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” On the other hand, the Dalai Lama never had to make his numbers.

Kindness, it turns out, is controversial.

“Kindness is not a word I would use in my trainings,” one executive development coach insists. “The leaders at the level on which I work don’t relate to it, because it describes a social value. The closest we come is an emphasis on creating a respectful workplace, avoiding sexual harassment, racial intolerance, or gender bias.”

Good, of course, but not exactly the tender offer of kindness. Perhaps it’s that very sense of tenderness that gives kindness its image problem. One female litigator described her own wariness regarding warm civility: “If a male is pleasant and easy to work with, he’s regarded as a nice guy. But if I extend opposing counsel a common courtesy, say, on a scheduling matter where he has a legitimate conflict, I am often seen as a pushover, and that works against my client’s interests. I can’t afford to be seen as a pleaser.”

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