Economic turbulence seems normative in modern America. Our current workplace finds itself struggling on organizational, team and individual levels. The impact of financial insecurity, joblessness, short-term positions, downsizing and changing standards in technology and job skills can have significant financial, psychological, and social costs for organizations and their employees. Recent scholarship has established the positive effects of compassion at work, and we are beginning to realize the impact it can have on organizational pain points. While it is difficult for individuals to control the external economic environment, giving employees tools to effectively increase their organizations psychosocial well-being is feasible.
Considering the amount of time Americans work, related stress and the importance of work to our self-identity, compassion manifests itself frequently in organizational contexts, but is usually not made salient. Frequently, employers give no consideration until workers compensation claims are filed and their insurance costs increase. Compassion covers a broad range of emotional and behavioral constructs. At least three elements of compassion have been established: noticing suffering, empathically feeling the person’s pain, and acting to ease the suffering. Importantly for organizations, compassion seems related to productivity driving pro-social behavior and organizational citizenship behavior (OCB). Compassion (including for the self by addressing personal pain) goes beyond empathy to actual action, whether or not the action achieves the goal of decreasing the suffering. We see compassion in the workplace daily, whether through helping a manager finish a task after hours, giving a new employee help, or offering banked sick time.
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