This is a second blog of sharing my thoughts on the book Awakening Compassion at Work by Monica Worline and Jane Dutton, 2017. My last blog described compassion at work.
Does compassion at work really matter? The authors’ research details what they call “the compassion advantage” for any type of organization. Their premise is that compassion matters more in building high-performing organizations than most people recognize. They identify six strategic advantages of compassion at work:
- Service quality;
- Retaining talented people;
- Employee and customer engagement;
- Adaptability to change.
Here’s a personal example of compassion in service quality that I experienced. My father died last November. As I was going through his belongings, I discovered $120 in American Express Travelers Cheques which my father purchased in 2002. I went to several local banks to cash them, sharing the story of how I found them after my father’s death. None of the banks were able to cash them, even though the Cheques were legal tender. Why? My father would have to sign the checks over to the bank because his signature was on them.
I approached my father’s hometown bank hoping they would accept the checks because my name was on my father’s checking account. The bank employees all knew my father and about his gradual decline in health and death. I explained the situation to the bank clerk who called over the branch manager. The branch manager hadn’t seen travelers checks in years; however, the checks needed my father’s signature. So, he said because the bank employees loved my father, and he had been a loyal customer for years, that he was going to turn his back and for me to sign my father’s signature. I did. I told them how thankful I was for their generosity. The bank manager said he did it for my father and didn’t want to bring anymore sadness to me in handling my father’s estate. He even said the bank may take a loss of $120 for taking this action, but it was okay because they deeply cared about my father.
The bank manager’s action is an example that “compassion at work can’t be mandated – instead it emerges when people authentically pick up on suffering and feel moved to respond.”
The authors’ say, “Making room for compassion as part of a service strategy opens the door for employees to have a more philanthropic approach to their interactions.” The bank manager’s act of compassion was far more important than the money. Such service is memorable.
What are your stories of employees or organizations being compassionate? How does compassion in your organization ignite innovation, service quality, collaboration, retaining talented people, employee and customer engagement, and adaptability to change?
My next blog will focus on how to lead with compassion.