A short answer would be no. But as it is the case with almost everything in a job interview (and perhaps also in life) things aren’t as obvious as they originally seem. We have to dig a bit deeper to understand… Without a doubt, it feels great to be kind. World would probably be a wonderful place if it was full of kind people. Imagine giving and receiving acts of kindness on every step. It would be heaven on Earth. Back to reality though, and to the corporate world.
In this article we will try to analyze whether kindness is a weakness, and how you should apply this knowledge in a job interview while trying to impress your interviewers. We will also look at 3 sample answers to the question, because hiring managers can ask you directly about your opinion. Let’s start.
The ruthlessness of the corporate world
Corporate world is no playground for people who want to be friends with everyone, who try to be kind to everyone. Without a doubt, some businesses can cooperate, but even these groups of cooperating businesses compete with other such groups, and individual businesses. In the world of business you always have winners and losers. But what does it mean for you, as an employee?
First of all, it means that you cannot always be kind. When you are negotiating a contract with a customer, or trying to win a competition for a public contract, you cannot give generous offers and kindly show all your cards to everyone at the table. On the contrary. You have to keep goals of your employer always on your mind, and do whatever you can to achieve the most favorable conditions of the deal.
Secondly, you should be ready for meanness. Regardless of how you treat other people, some people may treat you unfairly, and act rather roughly in the meetings with you. They do it simply because they also follow their goals, which can often be incompatible with yours (for example you try to negotiate the highest price for a contract whereas they try to push it down, to save as much money as possible).
There’s no place for emotions in an effective management
Most often than not you won’t participate in negotiations about big deals and similar stuff. But in most jobs you will have some subordinates, and you will be responsible for the results of your team. In some cases, being kind to people does wonders. In most cases, however, pure kindness won’t yield the desired results.
As soon as people sense a “weak boss“, a manager who rarely or never criticizes them, their motivation will drop. Because people are naturally lazy, and they won’t do more than necessary to keep their job and salary. At least most of them won’t. But that’s not what executives expect. They expect effort, growth, progress, they expect people to give their 100% every day.
It is fine to be kind, but at times you will have to raise your voice, and perhaps even confront some of your colleagues directly. If your only strategy is kindness, you won’t be able to do it, and soon enough you will lose your authority in the eyes of your colleagues. Kindness can be a weakness. As a manager you should try to achieve the desired results, and use all moral means of doing so.
Firing someone is never an act of kindness
Terminating someone’s contract, or firing someone, is another situation in which we simply cannot be kind, even if we try to. The employee doesn’t like the news, they do not want to go, they feel like a victim. Regardless of what you say to them, you won’t be kind–or at least they won’t perceive it in such a way, in their emotional state.
But firing people belongs to managerial jobs just like hiring people. If the best thing for the company (in a long run) is sending someone away, or if an employee made something that cannot be forgiven, you should be ready to send them home, regardless of their family situation and the relationship the two of you have together. Even in this case, excessive kindness would be a weakness. It wouldn’t allow you to do the right thing for the business.
Everything depends on the job
Weakness for one job can be strength for another one. And kindness (or even excessive kindness) is no exception to the rule. Think about a job of a cashier for example. Or a flight attendant, concierge, secretary. These people do not typically face situations I just described, such as leading business negotiations, firing someone from the job, or trying to get the best out of their subordinates.
They typically work with customers only, and their primary goal is to make the customer feel welcome, respected, and heard out. In such cases, kindness definitely isn’t a weakness. So before you decide how you’ll answer this question in an interview, think about your future job, your duties, and what role being kind (or the opposite) plays in them…
3 sample answers to “Is kindness a weakness?” interview question
- I would say it can be a weakness. In my experience, a good manager cannot always be kind. Of course, we should generally treat people well, because it helps with making good connection and winning their trust. But when it comes to closing deals, or trying to achieve the best possible efficiency in the team, we should be able to raise our voice, and say things some people won’t like to hear. In many cases it is the only way forward, and you can be sure I do not have a problem doing it.
- In my opinion, kindness is actually a strength. Working in a hotel industry for years, I’ve learned that more than anything else, guests expect us to be kind and courteous and welcoming. Many of them are used to rough and cold interactions back at home, or at their job. Their stay with us is their chance to relax, and also to experience different treatment, full of kindness and attention. To sum it up, I am naturally a kind person, and I definitely do not consider it a weakness for my work.
- In my opinion, kindness should never be considered a weakness in the world in which we live right now. It is ruthless to many out there. People have two or three jobs, trying their best, and many still barely pay their bills, and are one paycheck away from sleeping on the street. The least we can do–and sometimes also the only thing we can do for them, is treating them with kindness. I know that in some situations kindness won’t bring me desired results. And I know that I may lose my position to someone with broader shoulders, someone who prioritizes profit to relationships. But I am fine with that, and plan to continue being kind to my colleagues and fellow human beings.
To sum it up–be kind whenever you can
Regardless of what you’ve read here (or elsewhere), please be kind. 90% of people walk the streets with their face downcast, not caring about others. 90% of people would do anything legal, on the expense of anyone else, to get a better-paid job, to climb the career ladder, to work less and earn more money. 90% of people pretend to be kind sometimes, but they follow only their own good.
You can still save it with your kindness though. Try your best, be generous, give and receive kindness in return. Law of action and reaction cannot be broken. As you sow, so shall you reap…