Humans have a high need for compassion because it bonds us together in the human experience. We step out of ourselves and become conscious of another’s distress and desire to alleviate it. Through a compassionate act we tie ourselves to another person. A compassionate exchange is mutually beneficial: for a person receiving it, stress is lessened and self-esteem heightened and it is the same for the person acting in compassion. The experience of compassion flows to the observers as well. All involved, the giver, the receivers and the observers experience a higher state of well-being and are more likely to act with compassion.
We define compassion as an action between two individuals. We see it in religious institutions or non-profit organizations such as the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders. Outside of those groups, we really don’t define organizations, like a business, as compassionate. But, organizations are composed of humans who act compassionately everyday. Even though the mission of a business might not seem as identifiably compassionate as Doctors without Borders to people outside the company, the company can have a culture of compassion for the people within the company.
Businesses are social groups that must cultivate social bonds for the organization to act cohesively. Developing a culture of compassion at a workplace creates people who are conscious of each other and work together to alleviate the distresses of others within the social group. Once consciously begun, compassion by one person stimulates networks of compassion throughout the organization.
The immediate effect of compassion is a higher state of well-being, an abstract measurement. But, compassion also amplifies tangible measurements. Through her research, Emma Seppala, assistant director of University of California, Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, shows that compassion positively affects the workplace by reducing employee turnover, increasing employee loyalty and lowering health costs due to stress-induced physical problems such as high blood pressure, lengthy recovery periods and reduced immune system functioning. A culture of compassion also increases productivity. Outside the walls of the business, compassion reverberates to the interactions between staff and customers resulting in improved customer service. And, since compassion begets more compassion, the cycle multiples its positive effects.
Compassion brings employees from a relationship of competition to one of collaboration by increasing their connection with others at work. Forming deep social connections enhances employee’s commitment to the organization and engagement with their work. Management’s nurturing of a culture of compassion through service orientation and ethical practices induces employees to follow the example and it increases employees’ loyalty to management.
Creating stress, which is the opposite of what compassion does, runs people down, physically, mentally and spiritually. Compassion alleviates.