Let’s face it, these are tough times. It feels like we are living in an ‘everything that can go wrong has gone wrong’ world. Perhaps you are fortunate to be physically healthy right now. But that doesn’t remove the anxiety and stress that come with being in a situation where things feel out of control.
We have to remember that we aren’t alone in all this. Everyone is impacted.
What we don’t know is HOW others are impacted. A person who outwardly appears gregarious and funny may be suffering in silence with panic attacks. A colleague we see as a super-mom or super-dad may be overwhelmed with the responsibility of working and being home with children 24/7 for weeks (or months) on end. A neighbor may be struggling with news that their elderly parent is ill.
Sometimes we get insight into what it’s like for others in unexpected ways. Someone who is friendly and even-tempered becomes defensive or short during a meeting. You notice it’s been a while since you heard from a friend you speak with regularly. Or a colleague, known for being dependable, has been missing deadlines.
If there was ever a time, now is the time for us all to practice compassion.
Compassion at Work
Compassion is defined as suffering together. It means having concern for the misfortune of others and is sometimes referred to as ‘empathy in action.” When we are compassionate, we recognize another person’s situation and acknowledge it. Reaching out to help a person in need takes compassion one step further.
Research has shown that there are numerous benefits of employees experiencing compassion in the workplace. They tend to feel more committed to the organization and will experience positive emotions such as pride, gratitude and inspiration. No doubt these employees will be more productive and less likely to leave.
What We Can Do Today
In a recent conversation with well-being and spirituality expert, Debra Lafler, Ph.D., she stated, “Compassion starts with us, and then we can extend it to others. The feeling of getting in touch with our physical body is the best and first step for all of us. Notice when your chest feels heavy or you have a tummy ache or feel tightness. Our bodies sometimes tells us how we are feeling even when we can’t identify it with words.”
Today, each of us can start with self-compassion. Think of self-compassion as the same caring you would give to others, but you’re giving it to yourself first.
Managers and leaders play an important role in modelling compassion and creating a compassionate culture. In their book, The Mind of the Leader: How to Lead Yourself, Your People, and Your Organization for Extraordinary Results, authors, Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter, describe a compassionate organization as, “…one that focuses on caring for the whole person, not just the working person. It’s one where people support one another in being successful and happy.”
Dr. Lafler further suggests, “The compassionate leader leads from a place of safety to develop a place where an employee feels they are emotionally safe. Employees will know they are cared for and supported, that their best interests are being looked after, and that how they feel is important even if feelings aren’t talked about. Right now, because of the circumstances we are all in, we don’t need rules, we don’t need more fear, we especially don’t need discipline, we need understanding, flexibility, and we need to be trusted.”
Every interaction with a colleague or subordinate is an opportunity to practice compassion. One conversation, one interaction, one person at a time.