As we approach Thanksgiving, and we look at what makes for good company – whether around the dinner table or around the boardroom table – compassion comes to mind. Compassion is an important yet often-overlooked element in any workplace. Even though employers and employees come together for business purposes, the close interpersonal relationships demanded in the office require a great deal of empathy and understanding between coworkers.
Some questions facing management today are how can this compassion and empathy be fostered within a work environment, and why should companies be devoting time and resources to it? Outlined below are some of the benefits enjoyed by a more compassionate workplace.
Why you should care about compassion
Chances are, management has a very specific view of what the workplace looks like. Employees are hard at work, emails are being answered and meetings are being held. The best offices are viewed as the ones that are the most productive and the most efficient, and managers favor results and key performance indicators – this is the reason why so many employee reviews tend to be evaluative and outcome-oriented.
But to focus so single-mindedly on the hard business side of the office is to overlook a crucial element in the human component of your company. After all, your employees are the driving force making your business go. Any machine needs to have its parts well-maintained, and your staff, as the gears of your office, needs equal consideration.
Information from the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, revealed that many managers actually operate in a way that is counterproductive to this goal. Exerting increasing pressure to perform doesn’t drive results, it simply raises stress levels. And as the source pointed out, elevated employee stress levels can lead to health problems, attendance issues and even greater turnover. All of these can directly reduce performance and even negatively impact profits and services.
In contrast, a more compassionate workplace can lead to happier employees. When workers are more fulfilled, they work harder, perform better customer service and remain more loyal to the company than when they’re burdened by stress.
How to generate compassion
Where does compassion in the workplace come from, and how can companies go about fostering it? One method is to take notes from those employees who, statistically speaking, are already more disposed to be compassionate – millennials.
According to The Pew Research Center, millennials are not only the most connected generation technologically, but emotionally as well. In fact, the younger contingent of employees is uniquely disposed to experience compassion on a much broader scale. One main reason for this, the source noted, was the makeup of the demographic. Millennials are more ethnically and racially diverse than previous generations – 14 percent are black and 19 percent are Latino, compared to 11 percent and 13 percent respectively in the over-30 crowd. This offers the working youth a valuable array of experiences to draw from and inform their interactions.
For older generations, this perspective is an important lesson, and businesses can even take steps to harness it for their own development. Language training is a simple way to foster a greater sense of community within the workplace, as it introduces elements of all cultures into the office on a level shared by everyone.
It’s important to note that the cornerstone that holds compassion up is communication. With this in mind, anything companies can do to improve business communication skills would be a step taken toward a better work environment. Team-based training can encourage staff to work together and communicate effectively as a means to achieve shared goals. In a similar vein, channels between management and employees should also be opened. Town hall meetings or more open information sessions can give workers the ability to air their concerns directly to management, and can give those at the executive level the chance to empathize directly with their employees.