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Empathy to Ethics: Where Heart Meets Business

The Importance of Compassion in the Workplace

Compassion is the Key to Building Wellness in an Organization

I have previously blogged about empathy in the workplace, discussing why it’s so important for creating an ethical organization environment. In today’s blog I will address the importance of compassion in the workplace and why it, too, is important to have a healthy workplace environment that fosters wellness and self-improvement.

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions or experience of others. Empathy is the ability to step into someone else’s shoes, be aware of their feelings and understand their needs.

Empathy is less like a trait and more like a skill and, as such, can be developed over time with practice. The workplace is an ideal place to practice that skill.

Empathetic workplaces tend to enjoy stronger collaboration, less stress, and greater morale, and their employees recover more quickly from difficult moments such as layoffs.

With respect to the workplace, empathy manifests itself by sharing and understanding the emotions of fellow employees. An empathetic person is open to others’ feelings and interacts with them in a constructive manner that builds on trust because of the understanding.

Compassion

Compassionate workplaces are good for employee health and that may contribute to a more productive workforce and increased operating results.

According to Greater Good Magazine, we can express compassion in the workplace by noticing when colleagues are in pain or are undergoing some personal stresses and try to make them feel secure and comfortable at work. In other words, actively listening to others without judging them.

Compassion is a positive emotion that allows people to show that they care and are willing to help. Practicing and showing compassion can spread harmony in any environment, making it ideal for the workplace. Compassion

Some managers shy away from compassion believing it might make them look weak. Nothing could be further from the truth. It takes courage to put kindness and compassion ahead of pressuring employees to improve their performance, which is measurable. Compassion, on the other hand, is a subjective concept and best measured through surveys and interviews.

Remote Work Environment

Compassion in the workplace is more important today than ever before. We are all living with the effects of Covid on our health and wellbeing. This adds stresses to the lives of many workers, especially those with young children. Employers should be understanding and show compassion by allowing workers to use flexible hours in getting their work done. This may include working from home and having virtual meetings.

Not demonstrating compassion can be problematic with remote employees who are especially at risk of feeling distant, if not isolated. Research by Gallup shows that compassionate managers can improve employees' performance.

In fact, Gallup's research from a survey of 10,000 people found that four qualities best describe leaders who inspire performance: trust, compassion, stability and hope.

All workers need to feel that their manager genuinely cares. But having compassion is especially important for managers of remote workers.

When your team works remotely, opportunities to show you care only happen if you intentionally make them happen. But if you're not aware of the need to show compassion, lack the tools to demonstrate it or don't take the time to make it a priority, your remote workers might not feel that you genuinely care about them.

Not showing compassion for your remote employees can have a negative effect on your team's performance. Your concern -- or lack of -- affects performance outcomes in many ways.

Gallup Survey

In Gallup's survey, millions of people were asked to respond to "My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person." Employees who agree with this item are more likely to:

  • experiment with new ideas
  • be advocates for their employer
  • support coworkers personally and professionally
  • feel equipped to strike a balance between their work and personal lives

Conversely, a perceived lack of compassion can have profoundly negative performance implications. Being physically distant, failing to notice facial expressions and other cues, or simply being too busy with your own work to maintain regular and intentional contact with your remote employees can all be interpreted as a lack of compassion. And failing to show you care can spell failure in your relationships with your remote employees.

To show compassion, you must learn about what matters most to each of your remote employees. And then pay attention to it. Ask questions about it. Remember names, events and milestones in people's lives. If you're not good at remembering details, make notes and refer to them before each check-in. Remote workers are people who want to know that you care about their lives inside and outside the workplace.

We know that compassion in our personal lives is a good thing. It enhances ethical behavior and builds strong bonds with our family and friends. The same concept applies to the work environment. Indeed, good ethics at home and in the workplace go hand in hand. Ethics is not like a spigot that you can turn on and off at a whim.

Blog posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, The Ethics Sage, on January 26, 2022. You can sign up for his newsletter and learn more about his activities at: https://www.stevenmintzethics.com/. Follow him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/StevenMintzEthics and on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/ethicssage.

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