Compassion isn’t a word that is easily digested in the business world.
More often, we like to define our businesses as results-oriented, hard-driving and able to steamroll any obstacles that stand in the way of an objective.
Compassion is a word that seldom comes up in the workplace and when it does, it feels kind of squishy.
The truth is that workplaces have plenty of room for compassion, and it often makes them better. In businesses where compassion is emphasized, employees are less stressed and more satisfied with their jobs, and turnover is lower, researchers say.
Compassionate organizations also have more employee loyalty and engagement, according to researchers.
Compassion is defined as an emotional response we have when we perceive suffering and make an authentic effort to help. It often gets confused with the definitions of empathy or altruism, although it isn’t quite either of those.
Stanford University recently held a conference on compassion and discovered it a valuable tool in the workplace.
“Compassion, fundamentally, defines our humanity,” said James Doty, the founder and director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford.
In our everyday work world, there is a rush to achieve results. Sometimes in that rush, we forget that businesses are composed of humans who fundamentally want to succeed, but sometimes fail.
Instead of penalizing workers for their shortcomings, maybe the best path is to forgive them and encourage them to do better at the next task.
Researchers say any demonstration of compassion for others pays dividends forward and backward in that it shifts the focus away from one individual who attempts to help out another. That help is returned in rejuvenation and stress release in the originator.
It also pays benefits in that it reduces the fear of failure and promotes better resilience, traits that benefit any workplace.
San Diego motivational speaker and author Bob Nelson has been preaching this philosophy for nearly two decades. Neilson has sold more than four million books on management and motivation, beginning with his best-selling “1001 Ways To Reward Employees.”
Nelson contends that anything supervisors can do to humanize the workplace reaps benefits with individual workers and contributes to a more efficient work force.
“Because it sounds simple, that often works against us,” Nelson says. “We sort of take it for granted. But because it sounds simple doesn’t mean you don’t have to still do it.”
Although Doty believes compassion has a role in making for a more efficient workplace with less-stressed employees, he also realizes that businesses need clear evidence of that. He also realizes that businesses need to have information before they leap into promoting it.
“Theß data are there that show the benefits of compassion on the bottom line,” Doty says. “It’s better for your health and the health of your workplace.”