The C-word at work

It's not often uttered. You might go years - a whole career, in fact, without hearing it. If it does come out of someone's mouth, it's likely that others respond with shock or confusion. In fact, I even feel weird just typing the word, as if I'm revealing myself as a lesser person and shoddy worker.

Compassion. It's a four-letter word in most companies. I've never heard a senior manager say it, much less any employee. 

The book Awakening Compassion at work by organizational psychologists Monica Worline and Jane Dutton is summed up here“The challenge is no longer to find a good reason that compassion matters for business,” write Worline and Dutton. “The challenge now is to heed the call to design work and workplaces that awaken compassion.”

It sounds similar to Awake at Work by Michael Carroll, an excellent read that I also recommended often to clients, in a previous life as a corporate health and wellness business owner.

Compassion shouldn't be a radical concept though. It creates better people, a happier environment to come to ever day. And why should it ever mean a company couldn't also be hugely successful? As if treating people with compassion means a lack of competitiveness.

Now I'm not suggesting you sit around at the next sales meeting holding hands and singing Kumbaya (unless, of course, you are part of the sales team at, in which case this would be perfectly normal).

But there has to be more room made for the human aspect of business. It's where most of us spend our prime waking hours, and how most of us define a large part of who we are. Managers in particular could use compassion training; most have no concept of how much their words and actions cause stress in their employees, often long after the workday ends.

From personal experience, the gulf between a kind, genuinely compassionate manager and a corporate robot manager is huge. I've had some of the worst (would love to name names, but I'll bite my keyboard), and a few great ones. It wasn't rocket surgery either - the great ones just took a few extra minutes here and there to actually discuss work, life, and goals. And sharing a few laughs certainly helped.

That's all it took.