“Worldview events such as politics, economics, and social movements can result in distinct generational identities with associated values, beliefs, and behaviours. Intergenerational research can inform management theory and organizational practices.”
Dr. Heidi Weigand
Dr. Heidi Weigand is currently teaching Organization Change and Leading in Complexity at Dalhousie’s Faculty of Management. Her research focuses on leadership and diversity. She has examined leaders’ ability to manage emotions and the vicarious effects of an innovative mindset; the motivating factors that influence Generation Z leaders to drive responsible change; and the study of healthcare leaders and patient safety healthcare policy.
In the fall of 2020, Dr. Heidi Weigand and Dr. Kristin S. Williams explored intergenerational differences of kindness in the context of COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter (BLM).
CEGE Connection reached out to Dr. Weigand for a virtual interview to discuss the outcome of this research. We are pleased to provide a brief summary of Dr. Heidi Weigand and Dr. Kristin S. Williams research.
Dr. Heidi Weigand
We wanted to explore a perceived relationship between (1) kindness and motivation and (2) kindness and authentic allyship. Our participants included Gen Z (born between 1997-2012/5) and Gen Y (also referred to as Millennials, born between 1981 to 1994/6) across North American, Europe and Africa. Thirty-one participants self-identified as non-racialized, and 34 self-identified as Black, Indigenous and People of Colour, aka BIPOC. Gen Y/Millennials are currently the most represented group in the workforce and are now assuming leadership roles. Gen Zs are new entrants to the workforce. Worldview events such as politics, economics, and social movements can result in distinct generational identities with associated values, beliefs, and behaviours. Intergenerational research can inform management theory and organizational practices.
Here are a few snippets of our findings:
- In terms of leadership, it’s interesting. The literature on kindness in organizational theory and practice is pretty sparce. Kindness is not a significant focus in leadership research or business school education. It is sometimes packaged with other traits as part of a leader’s “good nature.” Kindness requires witnessed consistency to be seen as a virtue, whereas too much kindness can also decrease likability and be seen as weakness.
- The differences between generational views are nuanced but important. Gen Y sees kindness as self-sacrificing. They reject reciprocity and see it as an active behaviour where someone else’s interests are prioritized over one’s own. Gen Z see kindness as natural, but not necessarily requiring self-sacrifice. It appears to be more about demonstrating consideration, respect and helping behaviours. They emphasize authenticity and having good intentions.
- Is there a relationship between kindness and Allyship? Respondents gave us significant clues as to how to demonstrate authentic allyship and what kindness could contribute to this process. Respondents promoted self-education, dialogue, empathy, humility, and a need for meaningful and compassionate engagement on racism. Allyship is not an identity, it is a commitment to ongoing action.
Our preliminary conclusions surface a potential valuable relationship between kindness and BLM and allyship. However, given the hesitation demonstrated by non-BIPOC individuals in our study to avoid more productive, accountable, pro-social behaviours, we see significant barriers continuing for organizations. We also believe that our current COVID-19 reality means that kindness needs to be enacted intentionally and differently given the restrictions of social distances, technological barriers, and the constraints of certain activities.
Rowe School of Business