How to Awaken Compassion at Work and What Makes a Better Workplace

How to Awaken Compassion at Work and What Makes a Better Workplace

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Do you feel overworked and disillusioned? Are you depressed and sick of the rat race? Are your co-workers looking at the clock as the end of the day approaches? Do you hear endless chatter about leaving for new greener pastures?  We are all aware and know what a poor company workplace feels, looks and sounds like (Worline, Dutton and Sisodia, 2017). Yet that shouldn't be the way it is. Whether you work or handle eight hours a day, five days a week, so this time at the office shouldn't feel like a huge waste. Happy employees will work more and more effectively-and they are much more likely to stay put as well. Companies would again benefit from higher productivity and lower turnover.

It is here that compassion comes in. Businesses can be places where real camaraderie thrives; they can be workplaces where "solidarity" and "empathy" are not alien words but a core part of the nature of business. Compassionate workplaces are the best workplaces. If you are one of the many people left every day to go to work, you know that putting up with nonsense and tension is just part of the job, more often than not. Struggling is such a common issue at work, it is easy to forget that this is a real problem. In 2004, Kim Cameron, an administrative science expert, published his work on the impact of what he called virtue on business profits. Cameron also found that more caring workplaces were more successful. So more successful employees, of course, meant that the economies of the businesses were healthier. Moreover, his work found that caring companies were better at maintaining both clients and employees.


A Gallup survey, conducted shortly after the US terrorist attacks of 9/11, also confirmed the important position of compassion within a company. It showed that caring businesses saw a sharp increase in employee morale and level of engagement. Staff around the country had been impacted by the attacks and were treated by the businesses that acknowledged that. The businesses who only wanted the business to proceed as normal quickly found their employees disengaging and even damaging the work environment in some cases. Another advantage of compassion is that it is a possible source of creativity too. Another good example is Dr Govindappa Venkataswamy's work. He set up an eye clinic in 1977, in Southern India. His mission was to provide high-quality eye care for vast numbers of patients and he decided to do so. He created a business model which was surprisingly simple: the patients should pay what they could afford. He was able to create a full franchise of Aravind Eye hospitals from one clinic. In 2011, 7000 patients were treated every day by these hospitals, and one-third of the services were done pro bono.



They remained successful, given the fact that the Aravind Eye hospitals handled most of their clientele for free. This was because, as well as the poorest patients, high-quality care tended to draw affluent clients who could pay extra. Aravind Eye hospitals have gained much international press coverage. Maybe they will inspire other businesses and thus replicate their revolutionary model based on the power of compassion. It all shows that if kindness is shown to consumers, staff and organisation will benefit. This can be a vibrant, creative and innovative place in the business world. Yet, unfortunately, some of its clichés can also be pretty dangerous. You sometimes hear people spout things like, "Work is incompatible with personal life," or "If you're at work, you're just there to work." But behaviours like that can only exacerbate long-term misery, as they view misery as something you only have to cope with.


Suffering is common in job environments, according to workplace surveys. Many employees feel disengaged, and their managers do not believe they value their strengths and abilities, understand the challenges of their jobs, or care about their hardships (Suttie, 2020). Furthermore, personal losses – such as loss of loved ones, divorce, injury, and health problems – often cause an emotional upheaval that spills into the workplace and impacts efficiency. But many workers complain that their bosses remain passive and indifferent in the face of hardship, either because they feel that work and home life should be kept apart, perhaps because they are afraid to make a mistake in supporting.


According to Worline and Dutton in the Awakening compassion at workbook, this is completely the wrong strategy. This points to a growing body of research that indicates attending to employee distress does not impede, but support, an organisation. Compassionately listening to workers not only enhances their performance and loyalty, but also creates a positive atmosphere for learning, collaboration, and innovation — which all impact on the bottom line. In a study recounted in the book by Amy Edmondson, hospitals with high levels of "psychological protection" were more likely to confess to mistake and cooperate in seeking solutions. Compassion plays a role in psychological health, as it can increase trust and generosity of power, which in turn can have a cascade effect in organizations.


Good leaders contribute to becoming just as empathic with sensitivity and emboldening others. Turning to leaders in times of difficulty is human nature-we need them for support and orientation. This is why being respectful towards people in positions of authority is especially necessary. If they are, then certainly others will obey. The greatest leaders, to put it plainly, lead with compassion. They feel it is a vital part of their role to get to know their employees and build deep personal relationships with them. We listen closely to them, and genuinely respect the personal advancement of their employees. When you want to become a caring leader, by doling out orders from your place of authority you won't get anywhere; you have to focus on establishing those meaningful relationships. Operating that way, too, is much more emotionally satisfying.


Let's take a peek at HopeLab CEO Pat Christen. Her company is designing technologies designed to facilitate mental well-being. As part of her working day, Christen would usually spend her time figuring out what was going on in the lives of her workers, and what she could do to better help them. As part of her initiative to promote the personal growth of workers, she has set aside a certain sum of money for each one. The fund was there so that her staff could discover something new they thought would personally benefit them. This is very different from the way companies usually work. Generally speaking, funds like this are solely reserved for training workers in skills that will ultimately benefit the organization, with little concern in the individual activities and desires of the workers. But the coin has yet another hand. Great leaders are not only caring on their terms – but they also encourage others to act likewise. Often one only needs to express the value of kindness within the workplace, clearly and explicitly.


Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, actually wrote an article on "Leading Compassionately" He clarified that one of his greatest goals was compassionate leadership in heading up the business. He also openly acknowledged how difficult a challenge it was, however. Weiner's right. Compassion is not as easy to obtain as we have seen in those blinks as one would expect first. It can't just be willed; when someone is hurting you need to act. You need to be able to accurately perceive the emotions and feel empathy for the person who is suffering. And then, to top it all off, you have to take good, compassionate action to support the poor individual.


Through example, and your leadership's clear communication of those core values, you and your organization will become competitive, compassionate, and effective. Compassion is an organization management philosophy improves the efficiency of the enterprise and fosters creativity. It also provides more satisfying and pleasant places to work, the advantages of which can be seen by both staff and business leaders. Compassionate workplaces have lower turnover rates for workers, after all. Nevertheless, compassion requires a certain amount of focus and effort, as well as an understanding of the common habits people fall into when they are at work.



Kudsai Derera is the Business Systems Manager at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a management and human resources consulting firm.


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Suttie, J., 2020. How To Awaken Compassion At Work. [Online] Greater Good. Available at: [Accessed 15 March 2020].

Worline, M., Dutton, J. and Sisodia, R., 2017. Awakening Compassion At Work. Oakland: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Kudzai Derera
Super User
This article was written by Kudzai a Super User at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

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