Tom O'Neil: Compassion means business longevity

By Tom O'Neil

Compassionate bosses do not judge people and actually do something about the suffering of those around them. Pic Getty
Compassionate bosses do not judge people and actually do something about the suffering of those around them. Pic Getty

Recently I was put on to a really interesting article by Chris Till, chief executive of the Human Resources Institute of NZ. Entitled "The global workplace: a Compassion-Free Zone?", by Michael Jenkins of Roffey Park (an internationally respected leadership institute), ensured compelling reading in terms of today's workplace.

Jenkins wrote: "We know that workplaces that are compassion-free zones are populated with people who are constantly on the verge of burn-out, where interpersonal relationships are fractious and stressful, and where staff turnover is likely to be very high". Jenkins also went on to say that this lack of compassion in the workplace was surprisingly prevalent in environments and industries that are expected to have high levels of compassion. Worryingly the lack of compassion is prevalent "in the so-called "caring" industries too (and not just hospitals and care homes) but also in domestic and international charities where caring has become a thing that you do, rather than a thing that you feel.

In my experience, the lack of compassion in today's work environment is almost celebrated in some industries, with an ongoing drive for better returns and slashing back resources to improve shareholder return.

Sadly, these short-term strategies are not sustainable, as team members feel demotivated, key people move on and the organisation gets a poor reputation as an employer.

Compassion model

However, it's not all bad news. Roffey Park have developed a new tool that looks across five key elements that comprise their "Compassion in the Workplace" model. Jenkins explains, "As a compassionate leader, you are alive to the sufferings of others, you have the personal resilience to undertake a set of compassionate acts, you do not judge people and you actually do something about the suffering of those around you."

Benefits of compassionate leadership include the improvement of employee engagement and retention, boosting of employee productivity and improvement of overall results. Other benefits such as a lower heart rate and blood pressure are self-evident.

A great way to start is to personally complete the online Compassion at Work Index (CWI), www.roffeypark.com/cwi. This will help you understand if you have any "blind spots" that need to be addressed, before you unleash this exciting concept on your team members.

It's all up to us

Jenkins believes the "development of a caring and compassionate workplace is not something that can happen in the blink of an eye". As influential leaders in our businesses and organisations, we need to take the lead in creating working environments that are "compassion friendly", allowing us to create organisations that are positive and work well into the future.

Tom O'Neil is an award-winning business speaker and best-selling international author. tom@tomoneil.com

- NZ Herald

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