You Are Too Kind – How Fear for Weakness Causes Fear for Power

‘You are too kind’, the Human Resource Manager answered. I had suggested we create a clear template that staff in the sales department could easily complete and return, so as to make the sales process more efficient. The sales people were having a lot on their plate with all the recent changes. I believed the current process was unnecessarily hard and time consuming for them.

‘They can work it out, it’s what we pay them for’, the manager added.

I couldn’t believe my ears. ‘Why wouldn’t we create something simple that would make everyone’s life easier?’  ‘Why would we let employees struggle with yet another task that they aren’t hired for?’ I asked the manager. Again the manager answered: ‘You are too kind.’

I was dumbfounded. My coach-mind was working hard. My coach-heart understood at once: this manager is afraid.

This HR Manager is afraid of kindness. This manager believes that kindness is a weakness.

I suddenly understood why employees feared this manager – it was this person’s fear for weakness that made other people fear this person’s power. It was an unhealthy situation. Where HR personnel should be supportive and empowering, this person was leading from fear, and creating it, too.

Unfortunately, this HR manager is not the only one.

How could anyone be too kind? Kindness would be my religion, if I had to pick one. It is out of kindness that I do things. It is out of kindness that I see other people doing things. Without kindness there is no joy, no love and no appreciation. Without kindness our hearts are closed. With a closed heart you might as well be dead.

May be this is what turns some people into corporate slaves: they have lost their kindness. They walk the streets of industrial parks to and from work. Office buildings absorb them in the morning and late afternoons they are being released; they take their big cars and drive toward their freedom: home, where they can be kind. Kind to a spouse, a child, a pet, a neighbour – if at all. I pray that at least at home these people come to life and remember how kindness is like warmth; how kindness makes everything worthwhile.

Is this why people are counting down the days, the hours and the minutes of the work week, praying for Friday to come quick when Monday has only just began? If you cannot be kind at work, you cannot live at work, and how can you stand being in a place or in a job where you feel dead?

The fear for powerful people causes a fear for your own power. If you don’t like how some powerful people act, you may confuse their way of acting with power itself. You may wish never to have power yourself because it would compromise you into being an unkind person. Power may be mistaken for unkindness. What a shame. Power is healthy. Power is okay. If and when coupled with kindness.

Fortunately, there are plenty of examples of powerful people who do not fear kindness. They are kind, and people who work with them don’t fear them or their power. It is a situation of mutual respect – the healthy and desirable situation.

Those leaders who are kind already, don’t have to be told how to be kind, but you could tell them if you wanted to. What a shame that those leaders who are unkind would need to be told but are uninviting enough never to be told.

Ultimate kindness would be to risk being treated unkindly, by confronting an unkind leader in trying to explain that there is no need to be afraid – that their life and the lives of others would be more enjoyable would they have the courage to be kind. Somehow I feel I would be too kind then, but that would undermine my statement. I may have to gather the courage myself to be that kind to those who aren’t.

(This blog was first drafted many years ago when I worked for a company in Sydney. I ended up not wanting to take the risk of being treated unkindly, and I didn’t confront the manager. To this manager, I chose not to be “too” kind.)

(Soon after, this manager was made redundant in a restructure where the organisation could have kept them, but didn’t want to. The manager’s belief that being “too” kind wouldn’t pay off, in the end didn’t pay off.)

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