How to Demonstrate Caring in the Workplace

I care a lot about caring. So much so I wrote about it: Caring Is Everything: Getting To The Heart Of Humanity, Leadership, and Life. When people feel cared for, appreciated and valued, the workplace becomes a happier and more productive place. Here are five ways to help your team feel cared for:

  1. Look in the mirror. Honestly ask, “Do I care about the people on my team and what matters to them? Do I care about their success? Am I truly serving them or am I expecting them to serve me?” You can’t fake caring. People will see right through you. People will grant you a lot of grace if they know you care, but won’t give you much if they know you don’t. If you truly don’t care, do yourself and your organization a favor and get out of management.
  2. Listen. Listen. Listen. Take an honest inventory of the amount of time you spend listening to your people versus the amount of time you spend talking. Ideally, it’s good to spend at least twice as much time listening as talking. Listen to what matters to them. Get their input on how to make the workplace better. Get feedback on your leadership. It may start with complaints, then move to problem solving, but what matters is to keep the conversations going.
  3. Get to know – and respond to – people’s appreciation language. Gary Chapman and Paul White’s book, “The Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace,” explains that everyone has a unique way of feeling appreciated. Some need words of affirmation while others respond best to tangible gifts. Some need quality time and may not need praise and recognition. Others intrinsically enjoy working and seeing tasks completed. Some need to be left alone while others need hugs and handshakes. Care enough to get to know their unique nature and preferences and how to best respond to people uniquely. Don’t assume that your style is what everyone needs.
  4. Practice flexibility. Caring leadership is not the same as pleasing leadership. Leading doesn’t mean trying to make people happy. Caring means a commitment to serve, to help people get the resources they need to get their job done, not necessarily what they want. One thing the pandemic taught us is the importance of flexibility. While some positions require being in the office, others can be done remotely. To care about people, you need to be flexible in negotiating a win-win relationship.
  5. Be honest. Tell people what you know; tell them what you don’t know; and tell them why sometimes you need to withhold some information for the greater good. Set high standards. No one takes pride in doing something easy. While support statements need to accompany expectations, let people know when they aren’t meeting your expectations. Have a process for ongoing honest and mutual developmental feedback. Don’t be a “seagull manager,” where you fly around and crap on people.