In The French Workplace, 'Kindness' As A Solution To Economic Crisis

A magazine in France is pushing a new campaign for office benevolence, and even a "Kindness Day" next week. It may sound to some like empty chatter (and not typically French), but it's part of a larger trend toward finding solut

Nearly 250 companies have signed Psychologies' 'Kindness Manifesto'
Nearly 250 companies have signed Psychologies' "Kindness Manifesto"
Annie Kahn

PARIS - The French magazine "Psychologies' has its own solution to the economic crisis. The high-brow women's monthly has gotten nearly 250 companies to sign on to the magazine's "Call For More Benevolence In The Workplace," which will be followed by a "Kindness Day" on November 13.

"Kindness is a good response to the economic crisis," the magazine declared.

It's easy to laugh this all off, to note how easy it is to be nice for one day, and cynical and selfish the rest of the year. We can also shrug off some manifesto that allows us to proclaim ourselves virtuous, without actually having to translate such words into action.

And is it even possible to be nice when you have to fire someone? To deny them a pay raise? To negotiate a contract with a supplier? To answer your banker when he's just said "No" to a loan: "Yes, Mr. Banker, I understand... You're having a rough day ... Sorry to have bothered you. You must feel so guilty. Maybe you need a hug?" Just kidding.

But then again, why not? Aren't there a thousand situations throughout the year where instead of responding aggressively, of turning a blind eye on a colleague or employee's hardships, it would be possible to answer with kindness, respect, and to lend an ear to their difficulties? What would the consequences be?

More pressure on workers

Unless you are particularly perverse, it is usually more pleasant and rewarding to listen to and respect people than hurt or offend them. Some will have to think outside their box, and shed the habits of what our sometimes too rigid French education has taught them.

But being nice is also worth it for companies. Globalization, increased competition and this ongoing economic crisis put more and more pressure on employees' shoulders. So much so that it is in the company's interest to minimize as much as possible any internal causes of stress. Otherwise, the risk is that staff members are paralyzed with anxiety.

And because in a hyper-connected society, reputations are made and unmade in the blink of an eye, it has become imperative to behave well, says Dov Seidman, an American consultant, whose much talked-about book "How" has just be translated into French.

"Companies that have a more human way of functioning are more successful and sustainable," according to a study led by Mr. Seidman.

Being nice in business? Maybe not. But kind and respectful? Yes, that is "How." And the time is now.

Read the original article in French

Photo – Seattle Municipal Archives

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Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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