Compassion at Work: Part 1 of 3

I believe that at every level of society – familial, tribal, national and international – the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion. – The Dalai Lama

Compassion: simply put, it is wanting others to be free from suffering. We know what it means, but how many of us put it into practice in the workplace and in our daily lives?

UntitledThis week in a three-part series, we’ll explore the meaning of compassion and its relevance and importance in the field of business and management. In Buddhism, compassion is a fundamental concept that means much more than simply experiencing sympathy for others and reacting to their pain. It is about understanding one’s connection with others, having the opportunity to empower them and to create mutual well-being that benefits all. An article published in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science June issue by Richard E. Boyatzis, Melvin L. Smith, and ‘Alim J. Beveridge of Case Western Reserve University, “Coaching With Compassion: Inspiring Health, Well-Being, and Development in Organizations,” illustrates the positive effects of compassion in the context of coaching:

JABS_72ppiRGB_150pixwCompassion within the Buddhist tradition is a response to dukkha, a Pali word that has often been translated as suffering. However, many scholars of Buddhism have pointed out that the translation is inaccurate. The original term encompasses a range of experience, from pain and suffering to unease and disquietude…

Compassion involves noticing another’s need, empathizing, and acting to enhance their well-being. In response to another’s pain, the motivation is to increase hedonic well-being or the absence of pain. In response to another’s desire to grow, the motivation is to increase eudaimonic well-being or helping them develop. We argue that compassion includes both. Our expanded view suggests that coaching with compassion will lead to desired change, enhanced health, and well-being. We propose a model saying coaching with compassion invokes a psychophysiological state that enables a person to be open to new possibilities and learning. In contrast, coaching for compliance (i.e., toward how the coach or the organization believe the person should act) and deficiency-based coaching invoke the opposite state—resulting in a person being defensive, reducing cognitive functioning. We theorize how coaching with compassion can enhance adaptability of the organization through creating norms and relationships of caring and development.

Click here to read the article, and be sure to review our recent podcast with Dr. Boyatzis, an expert in emotional intelligence, behavior change, and competence.

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