Do you have compassion in your workplace?

Photo by Climate KIC on

Photo by Climate KIC on

Work takes up a lot of our life. Having a workplace you enjoy working in is important to ensuring both your success and your valued contribution to the organisation. It is not always like that though.

Forming connections at work
Forming connections with others is important we humans. Research suggests the power of connections can help us be creative, resilient and to live longer. In a work setting, forming connections is often overlooked in the face of workloads, deadlines and the stress and anxiety that can accompany this. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to inappropriate behaviour between coworkers.

If you want others to be happy, practise compassion. If you want to be happy, practise compassion.
~ Dalai Lama

In their article about Forming Stronger Bonds With People at Work, Worlin, Dutton & Hardin (2017) suggest the way to build stronger connections is to have more compassion in the workplace. They suggest four ways to do this.

  1. Be observant in noticing subtlety in the needs of others
    Showing emotions at work is often a no-no. People bring their professional selves to work and tend to mask emotions. In some places, showing vulnerability is considered a sign of weakness. Being able to observe the needs of others therefore requires tuning into their subtle behaviours that suggest distress. Does this require special skills? Not really. It requires interest and awareness.
  2. Develop your skill in inquiry
    Finding a way to inquire about a colleague’s welfare is a skill. It includes framing questions well, asking in a non-confrontational way or inquiring through others who are closer to the person of concern. The “R U OK?” campaign is an example of this – checking in, reaching out, to someone of concern. It is not just the asking though. It relies on listening to what is said (and what is not said). 
  3. Tune in to your need for concern
    Sensing and understanding another’s distress can evoke strong feelings that the researchers call “empathic concern –  a warm desire for the other person to be well” (Worline et al, 2017). This can occur when there is understanding resulting from common experience and from a genuine concern for others. 
  4. Compassionate action
    There are many standard ways of expressing concern and compassion for another. With a little thought and input from coworkers, more varied approaches may be developed. These do not need to be elaborate. Authenticity and genuine interest in the person will help elicit more creative responses.

Wisdom, compassion and courage are the three universally recognised moral qualities of men.
~ Confucius

Being compassionate requires courage. It means not avoiding difficult conversations or pretending not to notice distress in another. By making an effort to express concern for someone experiencing distress, conveys a message. They belong. They are cared about. The flow on effect for workplaces is that their workers will be “more creative, resilient, and eager to contribute” (Worline et al, 2017).


Worline, Monica C., Dutton, Jane E. & Hardin, Ashley E. 2017. Forming Stronger Bonds with People at Work in Harvard Business Review, 6 October 2017.


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