With the advent of the modern workplace, employees are starting to feel like they are just another transactional resource. Organisations have become so reliant on technology and automation, particularly for communication, that opportunities to connect and care for one another are decreasing.
In our culture, we are caught up in the ‘busyness’ of life, we barely have time to think about and care for ourselves, let alone our teammates. This is true of people who work within traditional centralised offices and distributed teams.
People are spending more time at work but not getting a human connection with others. There is no space to show normal human vulnerabilities and worry. Why would you when you don’t have a trust connection with others?
To be a healthy human, we need to express our struggles, but these often remain hidden at work. Consequently, compassion for others is often overlooked.
Compassion and kindness are most often seen as a form of weak leadership. With managers and team leaders preferring to advocate toughness and strength. However, this contributes to the dehumanising of the workplace.
Companies that foster compassion in their organisation have reported generating better financial performance, experience higher levels of employee retention and drive customer loyalty. This is because employees and clients give back when they feel valued.
So, what does it take to restore compassion in the workplace?
There are four elements to help companies cultivate compassion into their organisational DNA:
Companies can have fantastic visions statements, but if the culture is not conducive, compassion will never prosper.
In compassionate companies, the hierarchy is difficult to detect. Colleagues treat each other with a sense of equality and mutual respect. With no one person being more important than anyone else.
The organisation places people firmly in the centre of their values. You will see words such as trust, equality, balance, respect, and care used in the mission statement. The employees at all levels embody the values – from environmental layouts, such as shared meal rooms, through to displaying kindness in all interactions with each other.
Compassion is not something that can be directed from the top down. It needs to be shown through leadership and action.
Leaders in the organisation need to facilitate compassion through their efforts. Showing kindness in the way they manage their staff. Giving opportunities to build trust and connection amongst the team members. Encouraging staff to look after their own health and wellbeing. Most importantly, placing themselves in ‘another’s shoes’ to understand their team members triggers and vulnerabilities.
It is the strength of social networks that are the building blocks of organisational compassion. These are the webs that naturally form, where people develop relationships, share information, express their emotions, offer advice, and support each other. They are essential for all healthy humans.
Actively facilitating the building of social networks through the environment and actions brings compassion into the workplace.
Systems and Practices
These are the policies and procedures that enshrine the culture of compassion within the organisation. Research has shown that work practices founded upon trust and respect, such as transparent communication, flexible working arrangements and participative decision-making are conducive to a compassionate culture. They also experience higher retention and engagement amongst their staff.
As we move into a world driven by digital technology and automation, we need to understand and capitalise on the power of human connections. Compassion is a commodity to be lauded if you want the right people working for you.
Money and success are not the only elements needed for people to be happy. Relationships are the key to life satisfaction. Our social bonds are what helps us live a full and happy life.