Negotiating Order Through Kindness

Negotiating order through kindness? Why? Modern (or is it post-modern?) businesses can be tricky places to work. Some lack humanity; their leaders lack character strengths such as love, social intelligence, and kindness. Other workplaces are barbarous; their leaders are interested almost exclusively in increasing their power or their wealth, little else. We see this in reports from some high profile organisations. Amazon and Uber have all, to varying extents had their employment practices publically aired.

The Very Best

On the flip side, we see the very best of organisations where the humanity of leadership shines through: Alphabet (Google) and Microsoft often top the lists of the best employers.

Bizarrely, Facebook seems to have a foot in both camps. By publicly-reported accounts, apparently it’s simultaneously a great place to work, but also has issues in employment practices and looking after the mental health of employees who screen insalubrious content.

Both Types of Leaders

I don’t know about you, but across the years I’ve worked for both types of leaders. Now, my very favourite leader spent the first three months of our professional acquaintance being a complete and utter bastard to me. Hard does not cover it. However, once I got ‘it’ (his way of working) and more importantly once I got over myself, I would, metaphorically, have walked over coals for him. He presented as a pretty gruff individual and still does. However, he was and is one of the most humane people with whom I’ve ever worked. He would reject the use of the words love, social intelligence, and kindness, but subconsciously, he deployed them in spades. He negotiated working relationships very carefully, maximising the benefit to bother parties. He was negotiating order through kindness.

Paradoxically, probably my least favourite manager (not leader) came across initially as kind: a gentle fellow, engaging and apparently generous. Sadly, this superficial kindness hid someone incapable of love unless whom he was dealing with conformed to his worldview.

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

We need a ‘sidebar’ here. I’ve used the word ‘love’ quite relentlessly over the past few articles I’ve written. I know it makes some folk uncomfortable, especially men and especially in the context of work. I use the word ‘love’ unconventionally in writing about business. The conventional meaning of ‘love’ we’re most familiar with is from the Greek ‘eros,’ which is sexual, passionate or romantic love. Now, this type of love does occur in workplaces with good and bad outcomes, but I’m not writing about ’50 shades of kindness!’ My definition of love in the context that I’m writing in is ‘filial love,’ from the Greek ‘philia’ or friendship. Defined as goodwill, filial love is about valuing close, reciprocal, sharing and caring relationships.

What Not to Do

So, back to my least favourite manager. Whilst superficially kind, his love for colleagues was always qualified. He also had limited social intelligence. He was stunningly unaware of the feelings of other people, as well as being markedly un-self-aware. He singularly failed to negotiate beneficial working relationships effectively, preferring instead to depend on positional power.

Negotiating Order

When we consistently negotiate mutually beneficial working relationships (negotiating order through kindness), we negotiate order in our workplaces. Negotiated order is, in my view, causally linked to humane leaders. High-performance can only come from order. Disorder promotes chaotic performance

The common traits of humane leaders? Love, social intelligence and kindness. How do we get to high-performance workplaces? Order and humanity.