I am fascinated by the variety of cultures in organizations, and an active culture has always been my priority in looking for a new opportunity. I've learned the hard way what doesn't work and have been blessed as well by working with professionals that support one another and form a community. I've searched for the degree of relationships, community, empowerment, leadership, innovation, resilience. The list goes on and on. Guess what quality I haven’t searched for yet? Compassion. It never occurred to me to look deep inside an organization for compassion nor have I expected it. After reading the new book Awakening Compassion at Work: The Quiet Power that Elevates People and Organizations by Monica C. Worline and Jane E. Dutton, I have placed compassion at the top of my list when I look for exemplary cultures within our organizations.
The authors spent decades conducting extensive field research examining compassion way before any of us were exposed to terms like servant leadership or empowerment at work. They discovered that too many people are suffering in the workplace which presents itself in a lack of humanity, less dignity, lower motivation, and the lack of results with innovation, collaboration, employee retention, morale, and client relationships. It never occurred to me that a lack of compassion where we work every day may be the missing key that organizations have been searching for to change their cultures for people and results.
Awakening Compassion at Work is the tool that change agents who desire to change people and processes within an organization need to have on hand. Towards the end of the book, the authors present detailed blueprints for bringing about compassion for individuals, groups, and even how to deal with obstacles to compassion. Each chapter also offers us a question to ponder and fundamental principles to examine or put into use. There are compelling real-life, hands-on stories of compassion in play in some organizations as well as failures. These stories aid us in understanding the theories and tools that Monica and Jane offer peppered throughout the book.
We learn what compassion is and how some organizations resist it. Awakening Compassion at Work describes what compassion can do and what it won’t fix. Compassion must permeate throughout an organization and be present at all levels. Communities of sorts are formed and become the underlying strength of a company. There are four aspects of compassion, and each depends on the others. They include noticing, interpreting, feeling, and acting. Compassion is clearly an interpersonal action, and the compassion competence of a system depends on an emergent pattern of the four factors above. Worline and Dutton also offer suggestions as to how managers can awaken greater compassion through factors such as speed, scope, the magnitude of resources, and customization of resources for compassionate competence.
Awakening Compassion at Work illustrates how organizations can design for welcoming compassion. There is an extensive list of principles for companies of all sizes or structures in chapter 7 and is one of my favorite sections because it's hands on and so practical. Ideas include creating sub-networks within an organization where people can identify, examine hiring incorporating compassion and empathy, and coaching leaders to model desired behaviors or creating "melting" routines that bring people together. Moreover, we learn what actions or behaviors "awaken" compassion competence. They are elements that impact most of us face daily, and with the right mentoring and attention they can have profound implications. They include networks, organizational culture, roles, routines, and internal stories and leader behavior.
By now you should have a grasp of how important compassion Monica C. Worline and Jane E. Dutton feel is needed, and lacking, in organizations today. The information that I shared above is the tip of the iceberg and Awakening Compassion at Work offers an incredible trove of concrete research, information, ideas, and implementable actions companies can make to bring compassion alive. The shared stories bring ideas alive and will spark new thoughts and ideas from within leaders at any level. Compassion needs welcoming into every organization, but it needs to start with you. This book opened up my eyes to what we need to work every day along with empathy, empowerment, leadership or any other elements that you hold dear in a company culture. Bringing in compassion can completely change people and organizations which will impact our results. Are you ready?