Creating a Culture of Caring

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My trip and fall left a lasting impression - not in a good way!


Last week, my neighbors moved away after several years of living up the street. Although we didn't know each other well, we occasionally encountered each other at neighborhood gatherings. They certainly seemed nice enough, and we always exchanged pleasantries and small talk at the mailbox or waved as we drove past each other.

Reflecting on my memories of them now that they’ve moved, one incident stands out far above any of my interactions with them. As I was coming home from a walk around the neighborhood, I tripped and fell flat on my face right in front of their driveway. One of them was standing there putting something in their car, and they looked directly at me but didn't ask if I was okay or offer any assistance. I was literally face down on the pavement - there was no mistaking that I had a pretty significant fall right in front of them.

We made eye contact, but that was it. No “are you okay?”. No movement toward me to help me up and see if I was injured. I remember feeling more hurt emotionally than physically. The lack of concern from my neighbor really disturbed me as I picked myself up, brushed myself off, and finished my walk home alone.

That single interaction colored my experience with my neighbors and is the main thing I remember about them, despite other pleasant interactions and chats.

This experience got me thinking about our legal organizations. Just as my neighbor ignored my fall, we often see colleagues struggling and choose not to ask if they are okay. Ignoring someone's struggles can leave lasting emotional scars. People remember when others fail to acknowledge their suffering.

I know asking if someone needs help can feel awkward and a bit uncomfortable, but what if that’s what they remember about you (and, through you, your organization)? That someone saw them suffering and didn’t ask “Are you okay?” or “How can I support you?”.

In our legal profession, it's crucial to foster a culture where individuals feel supported and cared for. This is the essence of the "Culture of Caring" program that I have been teaching. It helps individuals and teams learn to support each other, both by building preventative and proactive care and well-being and by knowing how to support those who are struggling.

Why a Culture of Caring is Important

  1. Enhances Well-Being: Prioritizing mental health and well-being leads to happier, healthier individuals.
  2. Boosts Performance: When individuals feel supported, their productivity and quality of work improve.
  3. Strengthens Relationships: A caring culture fosters trust and collaboration among team members.
  4. Reduces Turnover: Employees are more likely to stay in an environment where they feel valued and supported.
  5. Improves Client Service: Happy and healthy professionals provide better service to clients.

How to Accomplish a Culture of Caring

Use the WALS acronym to remember the crucial steps to create a Culture of Caring:

  1. Watch: Be observant and notice signs when someone might be struggling. Pay attention to changes in behavior, mood, or performance.
  2. Ask: Don’t hesitate to ask if someone is okay. A simple, genuine inquiry can make a significant difference.
  3. Listen: When someone shares their struggles, listen with empathy and without judgment. Show that you care.
  4. Support: Offer help and connect them with the right resources. Sometimes, just being a supportive presence is enough.

Cultivating a culture of caring in our organizations leads to so many benefits, from enhanced well-being and performance to stronger relationships and better client service. By watching, asking, listening, and supporting, we can create an environment where everyone thrives.

For a more detailed blueprint on creating a Culture of Caring, take a look at this article that I wrote for the Institute for Well-Being in Law. It provides more insights into the benefits and lots of implementation strategies for fostering a supportive work environment.

As I think back on the fall I had in front of my neighbor and their indifference, I'm reminded how essential it is to show care and concern in our interactions. Just as a simple gesture of kindness could have changed that moment for me and left a positive impression, so too can small acts of support and empathy transform our legal workplaces into environments where everyone feels valued and cared for.

Let's commit to being the kind of colleagues who ask, listen, and support—creating a thriving community where no one feels alone.