Three Research-Based Reasons to Lead with Compassion

October 4, 2017
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business-2703167_1280-300x200Compassion is something we rarely hear about in the workplace, however new research suggests that it directly impacts an organization’s bottom line.  Since having compassion helps leaders be successful, it also enables the employees they manage to become successful—which ultimately contributes to the company’s overall success.  Here are three researched-based reasons to lead with compassion.

  1. Compassionate leaders are catalysts. Unfortunately, many managers overlook the centrality of compassion to their role.  Various studies, however, have concluded that an employee’s relationship with a direct manager is probably the primary influence on the quality of their workplace experience.  Dale Carnegie said, “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.”  This is why leading with compassion is critical to leader’s overall success.

Merriam-Webster defines ‘compassion’ as, “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”  Leaders who have an awareness of their employees’ challenges and offer commensurate support serve as a catalyst.  Essentially, a ripple effect occurs because the person who was shown compassion from his or her manager is more likely to show compassion to others.  The more employees feel supported, the more inclined they are to show compassion to, and help, each other.

  1. Compassion boosts employees’ well-being. Ed Diener and Martin Seligman published Beyond Money- Toward an Economy of Well-Being in which they suggest that connecting with managers and colleagues in a meaningful way enables employees to enjoy better mental and physical health.  Friendly, compassionate and helpful co-workers tend to have higher-quality relationships which can increase productivity and employee engagement levels.  When you consider the costs of health care, employee turnover, and sub-par customer service, it’s easy to understand how compassion can positively impact an organization’s bottom line.
  1. Cooperative behavior compounds in human social networks. After James Fowler of UC San Diego and Nicolas Christakis of Harvard studied the results of one singular show of compassion, they found that, “…each additional contribution a subject makes to the public good in the first period is tripled over the course of the experiment by other subjects who are directly or indirectly influenced to contribute more as a consequence.”   If one act of compassion can make such a huge impact, imagine what the results would be if every employee in an organization acted with compassion!  Someone just has to take the lead—perhaps you?

There are countless ways to show compassion in your workplace.  Apply Dale Carnegie’s 4th Human Relations principle, ‘Become genuinely interested in other people,’ by getting to know new employees.  Lend a hand to a colleague carrying an extra-heavy workload.  Consider coaching someone with less experience than you that could benefit from your guidance.  The Dalai Lama said, “Compassion is not religious business, it is human business.”  Let’s make it our business.

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