How do you want to show up in the world? This question was posed in a terrific TED Talk I stumbled across recently. It is a question that is particularly resonant today as we come together to recognize World Kindness Day – the day we give special intention in celebrating “…the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.”
World Kindness Day is rooted in the idea that as we practice acts of kindness, more kindness can thrive and grow and spread outward. The world is filled with stories of kindness begetting kindness and by contrast, as we know too well, unkindness begetting acts of anger, fear, frustration, and hatred.
So, how do we at Badger want to show up in the world?
Adam Grant, the organizational psychologist, points out that we spend most of our waking time at work. During this beautiful interview, Successful Givers, Toxic Takers, and the Life We Spend at Work with Krista Tippett, creator and host of the podcast On Being, Adam goes on to argue that generosity is a core value in life. If most of our waking time is spent at work, then, to not be generous at work is to not be generous during the majority of our waking time. Here at Badger, kindness and generosity aren’t just things we get to do while we’re at work – they also are the work!
Unless you are new to Badger, you probably already know that we are fierce advocates of both kindness and generosity. In fact, “Kindness is my Compass,” is one of our core values. Outwardly, Badger demonstrates this in a number of ways that may be familiar to our readers as well as some initiatives that are lesser known. Our kindness shines through our charitable giving program, care and ethics down the supply chain, regenerative work on the land we inhabit, and commitment to waste reduction, to name a few. In the colder months, we hold food and clothing drives, and over the holidays, we provide additional care and toys to local families who could use a helping hand. Annually, we bust a move to raise money for the Monadnock United Way, which in turn supports the good work of so many area non-profits. And this year, we grew over 400 pounds of organic, healthy food for the Community Kitchen, our local food pantry. We also partnered with the International Institute of New England to help a family transitioning from the Democratic Republic of Congo furnish their apartment. As employees, we are all touched by or involved in these initiatives in some way.
Inwardly, we demonstrate kindness through both policy and process. You might be familiar with some our progressive family-friendly policies: Babies at Work program, childcare center, free organic lunches, paying a living wage, and a wellness program (you can check out our employee benefits by visiting our website). Badger had me at the free coffee – fair trade and organic.
From a process perspective, our very fabric is woven with kindness, and I think this is where it gets really interesting from an organizational standpoint. As noted by Christine Porath in her Ted Talk on the effects of incivility in the workplace, not only does she warn that incivility or workplace disrespect or rudeness lower productivity and increase errors, she also found it to be contagious.
By contrast, our founder, Badger Bill, was impressed by the kindness at the center of a workplace practice called Synectics. Synectics comes from an area of research that studied hours and hours of corporate meetings and what made them successful or unsuccessful in finding group solutions to problems. One of the things they found was that how people shared and received ideas in meetings, in other words, how people were treated, was significant. At Badger, when we have a problem that we need to solve creatively, we use language such as “I wish there were a way we could…” rather than, “that can’t work because…” When the developers of Synectics, George Prince and Bill Gordon looked at their data, they found a pattern. If someone’s idea was perceived to be rejected, that person in response was more likely to knowingly or unknowingly retaliate by rejecting their co-worker’s idea either right then or in a future meeting. Because we approach problems at Badger in a friendly, collaborative and considerate way, you’ll see a different sort of pattern. When issues need to be solved, we come together in strength and kindness.
You may also find it curious that we no longer have a Chief Executive Officer at Badger. Instead, we have co-Collaborative Executive Officers, Rebecca Hamilton and Emily Schwerin-Whyte, sisters and family owners. We challenge the very idea that the survival of the fittest alone builds the corporate world. We believe that an essential part of the story is the survival of the collaborative. Rebecca describes it here.
What if kindness isn’t enough?
Our generation faces great challenges, and figuring out how to fix our problems can feel really overwhelming. I, myself, struggle with how exactly to engage in problems that seem so vast and complex: war, displacement, poverty, politics, and climate change. In the face of the world’s greatest challenges and needs, it’s hard not to wonder if simple acts of kindness can be impactful. When I think about the alternative, however, a universe where Badger isn’t the company we are, with people who hold kindness as a core value but do not exercise it, I think about the great goodness that would be missing in the world.
Kindness is an expression of compassion, of being open to the world and being willing to help, even if just a little. Here at Badger, we want to show up in kindness. It may not be perfect. It may not be the whole answer. But it’s important, and it matters. Because kindness is a thing the world always needs, we invite you to join us in showing up in kindness, wherever you may be.
Happy World Kindness Day everyone!
I leave you with a final thought from the 14th Dalai Lama.
“To remain indifferent to the challenges we face is indefensible. If the goal is noble, whether or not it is realized within our lifetime is largely irrelevant. What we must do, therefore, is to strive, and persevere, and never give up.”
So tell us, how do you show up in the world? We’d love to hear!