Kind vs. aggressive in the workplace: myths about performance

One of the myths that still persist in the modern workplace is that aggressiveness is a predictor of success. The legacy of the Alpha leader, depicted as a symbol of power and affluence, still has a grip on today’s beliefs about work. Kindness, on the other hand, has a bad reputation. It is often associated with weakness and lack of strength. But could kindness help us achieve some things that aggressiveness cannot?

Myths about aggressiveness

Some core assumptions about the aggressive work style make it so alluring. It is often associated with being a go-getter that is unafraid of pursuing goals, getting things done and sticking to objectives. Two aspects are problematic with these suppositions. First, there is often a confusion between an aggressive strategy or business model and aggressiveness as a personality trait. You can deliver a bold plan without being an ‘office warrior on steroids’. Second, a distinction must be made between forcefulness and aggressiveness. Ultimately, being aggressive often translates into being over-confident, leaving people out from processes and creating a hostile environment.

Myths about kindness

The story about kindness goes the opposite way. It is seen as a personal trait that hides oversensitivity, a lack of assertion and less resilience. Surprisingly, kindness has a positive connotation in all realms of life — except, of course, work. It seems to be at odds with what we think the world of work should look like: a competitive and ruthless place. Yet, being considerate and generous does not preclude any of the qualities that bring success. In fact, kindness should not be underestimated. It can bring with it many strengths such as high integrity, an ability to lift others and a great amount of grit in doing purpose-driven work.

What kindness can help you achieve that aggressiveness cannot

Regardless of whether you are a colleague, manager or leader, an aggressive attitude will make you miss many opportunities. People tend to fear aggressive co-workers, instead of following them. A kind employee holds the power to bring people together around a common vision. Aggressive colleagues are hard to trust which undermines the very foundation of teamwork. A kinder approach to work has more chances to stimulate genuine commitment. Last but not least, constant aggressions can bring morale down. Why destroy those working around you when you can build more enthusiasm? Giving kindness a try can shake up a team and bring its energy back.

Kindness at work must not be feared or shamed. At the very least, aggression should not be worn as a badge of honour. Being kind does not mean being weak or fearful while aggressiveness certainly does not equal confidence and courage. Kindness opens the door to creating a seriously great work environment.

Let’s practice kindness. Aggressively.

I am a coach and trusted advisor to driven and gifted people who feel there’s an inkling of rebellion in them. I help them create more fulfilment and reduce stress in their work and careers, on their terms. Connect with me here:

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