Can Compassion Be Used to Fight Bullying and Harassment at Work?
The Oxford dictionary defines COMPASSION as:
Sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others
I use the word ‘compassion’ a good deal in my work with organizations as we discuss the qualities we seek in positive working relationships between employees in the workplace and also within the relationships that exist from the boss down. It is brought up often in discussions revolving around bullying and harassment allegations. Some might look at the definition and feel that the only time you need to even think about expressing this emotion is when someone is down and out. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
We are continually being told by everyone from researchers to best practice advocates and thought-leaders, that the size of an employee’s paycheck is not the most motivating aspect of their working experience.
It is how they are TREATED. And to be much more specific, it is how they are treated by their boss.
If we think back to the best boss we’ve ever had in our professional lives and then think back to the worst boss we’ve experienced, the thing that will differentiate our best boss is the way that she/he treated us.The great American author and poet, Maya Angelou said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Think about that for a moment. It’s absolutely true.
To Increase Employee Loyalty – Show Compassion
Compassionate and interested leaders, the ones that take a genuine interest in their employees, increase loyalty and trust reflected back to them by those same employees. Warm and positive relationships at work have a huge impact on employee allegiance than almost any other factor.
So as a leader, the more that you demonstrate compassion to your employees, the more their loyalty to you will increase and in addition, those around you who witness such compassion are also likely to feel an increased sense of commitment to you as well.
I was recently doing some research work into a presentation that I am delivering on the topic of kindness and helping people, and I found a wonderful document called The World Giving Index.
The World Giving Index
It is the brainchild of the Charites Aid Foundation (a UK based organization dedicated to “motivating society to give ever more effectively, helping to transform lives and communities around the world.”) which looks at charitable behaviour around the globe by surveying 135 countries. The annual report is based on more than a million interviews conducted by Gallup since 2005/06, as part of their World Poll survey.
The World Giving Index score is based on an average of three measures of giving behaviour – the percentage of people who, in a typical month:
It is this last category that interests me in particular : Help a stranger.
What motivates a person to help a stranger (or someone that they don’t know who is in need of help)?
The report identifies that countries which have experienced conflict or disasters suddenly soar to the top of the rankings in this category due to the fact that there are citizens suddenly leaping to lend a helping hand to those who were less fortunate. But as soon as the crisis is over, so is that extended hand.
We need to understand that the impact of regularly extending a hand to people around us has an incredibly positive impact on them and those others who witness it or become aware of it. We shouldn’t wait for their house to be ripped from the ground by a tornado or for their water main to burst unexpectedly.
We need to exercise our COMPASSION every day.
You are probably one of those people who helps strangers all the time (and I hope that you are). Whether it is buying a suspended coffee or donating blood, you feel this rush of humanity coursing through your body each time you do this and you can probably remember the exact moment when you last felt that.
But stop for a moment and try to remember the last time a complete stranger helped you? That becomes a little more challenging doesn’t it?
It is that feeling that you have inside you right now (the one where you are wracking your brain trying to think of the last time someone extended that hand) that needs to be the motivation behind being compassionate to those around you, especially if you are in a leadership, managerial or supervisory role at work.
It is the most important act that you can perform.
Emma Sepalla (the science director of the Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University) wrote a terrific article about this very issue recently which was featured in the Harvard Business Review.
Three Steps To Help You Show Compassion
In the article she identifies three steps you can take if something happens at work and you suddenly feel yourself NOT wanting to be that compassionate boss.
- Take a moment. It is important to manage your own emotions — anger, frustration etc. since you need to be thoughtful about your approach to the problem.
- Put yourself in your employees’ shoes. Taking a step back will help give you the ability to empathize with your employee. (the subject of a near future blog from me)
- Forgive. Empathy, of course, also helps you forgive. (Take a look at this past blog from me to re-familiarize yourself with this art). Forgiveness will also strengthen your relationship with your employee by promoting loyalty.
Stephen Covey, Ernest Shackleton and a myriad of others who have shaped our world ALL spoke of COMPASSION as being the foundation of positive relationships.
So, don’t wait for the next hurricane or tornado to hit your neighbour to exercise your compassion. The(ir) world will be a better place for it.