The Value of Compassion

When we think of compassion, we often think of comforting someone. We think of both sympathizing and empathizing with a friend, colleague, family member, or partner who is struggling with a personal challenge. Without a doubt, this type of response is valuable and offers qualitative support to someone during a trying time. It also demonstrates your genuine interest in their well-being. And it is a reflection of your principles and priorities and as a caring individual. However, while compassion can be present in the workplace when offering support to someone with a personal issue, it is often reactive rather than proactive. Rarely is compassion a preemptive part of a company’s standard operating procedure. But it should be!

In their new book, Compassionomics: The Revolutionary Scientific Evidence that Caring Makes a Difference, authors Dr. Anthony Mazzarelli and Dr. Stephen Trzeciak reveal amazing results from in-depth studies about the applications of compassion. One study they cite showed that receiving just 40 seconds of empathy, kindness, and support from someone of power (such as a doctor or boss) resulted in greatly reduced stress. Another study cited from The Wharton School of Business found that those who invested time in being thoughtful to others actually felt like they have more time. This may sound counter-intuitive but according to their study, 56% of people stated that they did not feel like they had time in their day to show empathy towards others. But once they did so, they actually felt like they had more time.

Additional studies found that those offering compassion to others experience a neurological response affectionately referred to as “helper’s high”. And nearly every participant polled said they felt more inspired to work harder and perform better when they felt like their bosses demonstrated compassion.

In a recent National Public Radio interview with Mazzarelli and Trzeciak, they explained that the average patient visiting a doctor is interrupted 11 seconds into sharing their concerns/symptoms and not able to develop a meaningful rapport. Conversely, when doctor’s take the time to ask insightful questions and listen, patients tend to trust them more, follow their directions more, and resolve their issues more effectively.

In a recent article in a 2018 State of Workplace Empathy study found that 96% of employees consider it important for employers to demonstrate empathy, yet 92% believe this trait is undervalued in their workplaces. So the real question many people will ask in business is how does this translate to the bottom line and what is the true value of compassion?

Let’s start with the premise that compassion fosters an environment for active communication. Employees who work in an environment where they feel both personally and professionally supported are less stressed and more productive. This results in a more dedicated workforce with less turnover.  But let’s take it one step further.

In a Forbes article by Shep Hyken, he shared that compassion is a $600 Billion problem.  In the article, Hyken shared that a Gallup poll demonstrated that the average U.S. employee is not only unengaged at work, but half of U.S. employees are actively searching for a new job and that the battled for engaged talent can impact businesses’ bottom lines by more than $600 billion cumulatively in lost productivity per year. According to the survey, a whopping 92% of employees would be more likely to stay with a company if it empathized with their needs.

There is no question that exercising compassion takes an investment of time and energy. But there is also no question that compassion is a valuable and underutilized tool that can greatly impact a company’s reputation and bottom line. Think of some of the companies people rave about. One of the things most of them have in common is the reputation that they care about their employees. These are the types of places we all want to work and work with.

Here are 10 easy suggestion on how to foster impactful compassion in the workplace:

  1. Make employee wellness priority.
  2. Be a patient leader.
  3. Be supportive.
  4. Ask questions; don’t make assumptions.
  5. Be flexible to the way things get done.
  6. Follow through on your promises and your expectations.
  7. Show appreciation.
  8. Listen to ideas, needs, and wants.
  9. Encourage collaboration.
  10. Accept that mistakes will happen.

If I told you that there was a free way to improve retention, increase work productivity, foster a positive working environment, and increase employee engagement, would you want to know more?  At the end of the day, compassion may be one of our most renewable and untapped professional resources.

For more information about this subject and all aspects of The BUILD Framework®, consider getting a free copy of my book:

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