“Even if we know that people suffer, should businesses or work organizations care?”
This quote is from a new book I’m reading called Awakening Compassion at Work. It’s a provocative question the authors pose.
Professor Paul Gilbert at Derby University describes compassion as “being sensitive to the suffering of self and others with a deep commitment to try to prevent or relieve it.” Compassion for a person’s suffering makes no distinction whether it is from outside work or work itself. The experience of suffering in the workplace is mostly responded to by silence from co-workers, managers and executives. How often are people told to not bring their personal troubles to work?
Work itself gives rise to suffering through downsizing, constant change, dysfunctional work teams, unreasonable workloads, and meaningless work. The authors research identified a number of workplace sources of suffering, which include:
- Lack of appreciation for one’s talents and skills,
- Being at the whim of supervisors who didn’t understand the difficulties of their work,
- Pressure of unreasonable deadlines and demands,
- Feeling consistently devalued and disengaged when they wanted their work to be meaningful.
(From Awakening Compassion at Work by Monica C. Worline, PhD and Jane E. Dutton, PhD, 2017)
Over my 28 years of consulting, I’ve heard all these sources of suffering from employees and managers. At times, they would plead with me to make their voices heard to upper management because their voices were either met with disdain, disregard, or silence. Their workplace suffering is then carried home where there is more suffering.
In my next blog, I will address: Why does compassion at work really matter and how does one lead with compassion? I encourage you to start reading this book. Your organization’s sustainability may depend on it.