What is Compassion at Work and Why Does it Matter?
It almost seems an anathema to talk about compassion and business in the same breath. At first glance, they seem unlikely bedfellows in all but a few health or care related professions where compassion is firmly on the agenda. But step outside of healthcare and if compassion is considered at all, it is to be regarded as something that is ‘pink and fluffy’, nice to aim for, an add on, relegated to the bottom of an extremely long list, languishing far behind profit and productivity. Or worse still, a positive liability in a corporate cut throat world. The old adage of “Nice guys (and girls) finish last” still holds true in some organisational cultures. But is there a business case for compassion at work?
What is Compassion?
Is it about being nice? No. But defining compassion can be problematic. It isn’t sympathy. It isn’t empathy. It isn’t merely ‘being kind to others. Rinpoche (1992) states: “[Compassion] is not simply a sense of sympathy or caring for the person suffering, not simply a warmth of heart toward the person before you, or a sharp recognition of their needs and pain, it is also a sustained and practical determination to do whatever is possible and necessary to help alleviate their suffering”. Compassion then, is empathy with action. Noticing another’s suffering and then acting upon that noticing.
Start at the Top
Where better to start than at the top of an organisation when modelling compassion. Research by Lilies et al `(2011) found that when leaders modelled and reinforced values that encouraged employees to build closer relationships, workplace empathy was increased. Leaders who demonstrated compassion were more likely to engender employee engagement, motivation and productivity.
The old command and control style of leadership has the opposite effect on workplace engagement. It seems then, that compassion at work is good for leaders, good for employees and good for business.
How to Develop Compassion
Probably the most accessible technique and one used by Google, Aetna, SAP and General Mills is mindfulness. Mindful compassion practices, for example, Google’s ‘Just Like Me’ practice based upon traditional Buddhist practises have been successfully used to develop leadership and employee compassion. Take a look at our Sound Cloud podcasts to hear more or see our mindfulness blogs for more information.
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We deliver bespoke Mindfulness Leadership and Mindfulness at work training in-house and open courses offering 1 day, half day, bitesize training sessions along with conference speaking. We’re also currently researching the impact of mindfulness and compassion on leadership efficacy. To find out more about our research, mindful leadership or mindfulness training contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our events page http://positivechangeguru.com/events-2/