One Girl Scout Alum on Being Kind in Your Professional Life During COVID-19

Being Kind in Your Professional Life During COVID-19

Maya Smith

There’s a lot of talk about the value of showing your neighbors kindness right now—but how does this extend to work life?

Maya Smith, Girl Scout alum and executive director of the Born This Way Foundation, says the answer is by not focusing on “business as usual.” Leadership at Born This Way—founded eight years ago by Lady Gaga and her mother, with the mission to build a kinder, braver world—has made a lot of changes to the way their employees work.

Maya, who worked at two youth-focused nonprofits before joining the foundation, believes that taking care of coworkers is more important than ever right now.

“I’m 36 and the oldest person who works at the foundation,” she says. “So that experience I had around 9/11 when my world fell apart … my coworkers are having that now. And how they’re cared for is important. I understand how transformational that uncertainty is, so I think a lot about how to support our team.”

Read on for her advice on how to infuse your workplace with kindness right now.

1. Decide to be flexible.

“We started by thinking, ‘What does a productive day look like?’” says Maya. “How can we show patience and kindness when someone can’t make the meeting or the kid pops into the room?”

“I think it’s super important to say that my expectations for this moment, these people, and our collective history have changed. It’s not about KPIs and raising money; it’s about how we support people.”

2. Support those who are struggling.

“One of the things that’s changed for us is that we do this morning check-in with our team just to give everybody a space to talk about how they’re feeling,” she says. “We use the time to ask for help, share resources, post a funny meme. Sometimes folks cry.”

3. Understand that being kind positively impacts the bottom line.

“The foundation did a report, Communities: A Bridge to Mental Wellness, and we interviewed high school students, college students, and young millennials,” Maya explains. “And employees with bosses who said ‘hi’ to them by name had higher mental health scores.”

“Kindness also reduces employee churn [attrition] rates because it improves employee satisfaction.”

4. Spread the kindness and meet needs outside your organization.

“We took a moment last week, during the workday, to thank doctors and nurses. We also have a kindness and community fund. So if a women’s shelter is low on tampons, we buy them. We try to meet needs wherever we go,” says Maya. “This week, we divided the money, gave it to the team, and asked them to use it in service to someone else. Thinking about unmet needs and being empowered to meet them was transformational for us.”