In their new book, Awakening Compassion at Work, authors Monica Worline and Jane Dutton suggest that because of technology, business has become depersonalized.
According to the authors, suffering is rampant (and overlooked) in the workplace. Employees often feel disengaged when they sense their leaders don't care about their problems. However, personal setbacks can cause an emotional upheaval that spills over into the workplace.
The leadership speakers emphasize four aspects of compassion that we need to pay attention to:
Notice human suffering. You can only have compassion for something that you take the time to notice. The hurried pace of business life can drive out the time to be aware of others. Compassion is often blocked because people hide their suffering for fear it won't look professional. Increased pressure to do more with less usually equates to less attention being paid to people and their suffering.
Interpret the impact of the suffering. Some people will naturally decide the suffering is justified and others will shrug it off as an excuse. The way you interpret suffering will alter your culture and how you respond to others misfortune.
Feeling. The kind of interpretation we make of others suffering will tip our assessment in different directions. A range of feeling emerges: from compassion to distrust to aloofness or indifference. Empathy will automatically trigger a desire to help, while indifference will not.
Acting. What evolves from noticing, interpreting and feeling determine how we take action. Compassionate acts involve listening, understanding, relating and supporting.
The authors and leadership speakers suggest organizations recognize acts of compassion and tell stories that highlight achievements as well as mistakes or misfortune. Open dialogue around mistakes and challenges helps create a culture that is compassionate to suffering.