Compassion and work may seem incompatible bedfellows in all but a few health or care related professions where compassion is firmly on the agenda. Research increasingly suggests that compassion is a key workplace differentiator, one well worth cultivating. We examine what compassion is and how to develop it at work with our 8 stage checklist.
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?
The fourth in our series of live blogs from New York. Today we take a look at what we can learn from psychopaths about empathy.
The empathy switch. Usually associated with the Lectur-like ability to glide effortlessly from charm to callousness in the blink of an eye. The domain of criminals and those that your mother told you to stay away from, how could we possibly have anything to learn from the playground of psychopaths?
Whether you have an established wellbeing programme or are designing a strategy from scratch, mindfulness should be firmly on the agenda. With converts ranging from Google, Transport for London, Honda, the National Health Service, Microsoft and Aetna the results speak for themselves. We’ve worked with many companies who are now mindfulness evangelists. But where do you start when introducing mindfulness to your workplace? We’ve often been asked this question by clients so here are our
7 Insider Tips [Read more…]
Profit? Loss? Return on investment? How about compassionate leadership as an organisational metric? We give you the skinny on why it might not be as counterintuitive as it sounds.
Working in a compassionate workplace impacts positively upon our levels of stress and ability to maintain resilience, reducing burnout (Figley 1995). The corollary of this is an improved ability to care for colleagues, direct reports and clients (Lilius et al. 2011). The impact of compassionate leadership also influences employees’ perception of their colleagues and the organisation generally. Suggesting compassion is good for business and for employees.
Lilius et al. (2011) found that when employees perceived that direct line managers were concerned about their wellbeing they reported feeling more engaged and happier at work. Employees were also less likely to leave the organisation resulting in a reduced staff turnover.
From Good To Great
Compassionate leaders have the ability to make workplaces more enjoyable and less stressful places to be. Fredrickson et al. 2000 found that when subjects experienced positive emotions their heart rate and blood pressure is lowered. Psychological distress was also observed to decrease. As Wallace Bachman’s (1988) military based research found, sometimes nice guys really do finish first. In ‘True North’ Bill George (2007) describes this compassionate leadership style as “transforming a workplace from ‘I’ to ‘We.’” Providing an environment where leaders leave behind the cut throat competition along with their ego’s to provide a workplace space were individuals are supported and developed by leaders. Collins (2001) describes this as what he considers a ‘Level 5’ leadership skill, consisting of motivation and humility. These leaders, Collins states move individuals, teams and organizations from ‘good to great.’
So are YOU a compassionate leader? Visit our resources page to find out more.
To find out more about compassionate leadership or compassion training contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Compassion and work, strange bedfellows or not?
At first glance they might seem strange bedfellows; compassion and work? Surely not? Whereas compassion may not appear to be a priority in the work place there is increasing evidence that when it’s present, employees flourish and organisations thrive.
So what is compassion at work?
Sogyal Rinpoche describes Compassion as “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”. Wharton Management Professor, Sigal Barsade describes compassion as “when colleagues who are together day in and day out, ask and care about each other’s work and even non-work issues.” Barsade talks about the importance of an emotional culture, stating that this is equally as important as cognitive organisational culture, stating compassionate employees “are careful of each other’s feelings. They show compassion when things don’t go well. And they also show affection and caring — and that can be about bringing somebody a cup of coffee when you go get your own, or just listening when a co-worker needs to talk.”
Put simply, compassion at work is empathy with action. The ability to notice the suffering of colleagues, whether it be a stressful day, a difficult conversation with peers or a problem at home – and then the ability to act upon that noticing.
Why is compassion at work important?
There is a growing body of research that suggests that the happier we are at work the more productive we are. Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research suggests that happier staff are more engaged, creative, productive and motivated. Successful leaders recognise that happy employees mean increased productivity and ultimately increased profit. It’s not just about the bottom line, nobody wants to be miserable in the place where they spend the majority of their waking hours.
It’s not just about the feel good factor and being civil to each other in workplace. In a 16 month longitudinal study “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” set in a health care facility, Barside and Olivia O’Neil researched the impact of compassion upon the emotional behavioural outcomes of employees. They found that compassion reduced levels of exhaustion and burnout. The researchers also saw a decrease in absenteeism with a corresponding increased levels of employee engagement. Increasingly research in the field of compassion at work is beginning t show that there are tangible results when we develop compassionate individuals, leaders and cultures;
• When we’re on the receiving end of compassionate leadership at work we’re more likely to be committed to our organisation and to talk about it in positive terms (Lilius et al. 2008)
When we experience compassion at work connects co-workers psychologically and results in a stronger bond between them (Frost et al. 2000).
Managers who believe that their organisation is concerned about their well-being are more likely to show supportive behaviour towards their team members (Eisenberger, 2006).
• Those who receive compassion are subsequently better able to direct their support and care giving to others (Goetz et al. 2010). As Bayside found, this is important in healthcare organisations. Working in a compassionate organisation reduces the chance of compassion fatigue and burnout in caregivers (Figley 1995). This also provides them with essential emotional resources that they need to care for their clients (Lilius et al. 2011).
• Compassionate leadership also influences employees’ perception of their colleagues and organisations. Studies show that employees who believe that their leaders care about their well-being are happier with their jobs and more commitment (Lilius et al. 2011). When we experience compassion ate work we are also less likely to leave the organisation, reducing employee turnover.
• Fredrickson et al. 2000 found that when we experience positive emotions our heart rate and blood pressure is lowered. Our psychological distress also decreases. Compassionate leadership has the potential to improve employee wellbeing.
How can you develop compassion at work?
Consider the way that you interact with others in the workplace. Think about;
- Say ‘Good Morning’ to colleagues, acknowledge their presence and let them know you care.
- Actively look for ways to help colleagues, direct reports and clients.
- If you’re making a coffee, offer to make one for a colleague.
- Notice how others are feeling, bring mindfulness to your interactions and if someone appears to need help, reach out to them.
- Practice mindfulness. Professor Paul Gilbert one of the world’s leading experts in compassion says that mindfulness can be used to develop an attitude of compassion at work.
- Here’s a Mindful practice from Compassion Life by HH The Dalai Lama to help you o your way:
Sit in a comfortable position. Take a few moments to pause and relax bringing your focus to your breath. Gently settle into a relaxing breathing rhythm.
Bring to mind a person or situation where you got angry, impatient, frustrated or seriously annoyed. Get a clear picture of the people in this situation and what they were doing that really bothered you…..
Now think of each person when they aren’t at work. Connect with them as another human being.
Picture them as a fellow human being with a family, pets, children, brothers and sisters… just like you
Think of them working to support their family and wanting to live happily…. just like you
Imagine them working as best they know how to work ….. just like you
Think of them having life challenges, fears, worries, insecurities….. just like you
Picture them trying to do their best with what they know to do…. just like you
Know they desire happiness and want to be free from suffering… just like you
Breathe deeply as you picture them with their family or neighbors enjoying life and being happy. Feel the wave of compassion in your body as you connect with your desire for their happiness.
We love to talk about all things compassion at work related at Positive Change Guru. Check out our forthcoming events or get in touch to find out more about our suite of courses and discuss bespoke compassion at work training for your organisation.
Are you under attack from Mood Hoovers?
No matter how positive you are, sometimes you’re in a situation where those around you have lost their mojo and radiate negativity. Unknowingly these emotional vampires suck the positivity out of everyone around them with their doom and gloom approach to life. It can happen to any of us and we’re all entitled to an off day but on a regular basis it can be exhausting and completely drain your energy levels. If you frequently find yourself in a situation where you’re surrounded by negativity, in the office, with friends or even at home, here’s our quick survival guide to managing mood hoovers.