We approach this essay with three goals in mind, all focused on elaborating how compassion is a generative force. By generative, we mean that compassion as an idea opens up new vistas, expands resources, and creates new insights. It is a force in the sense that it propels and motivates action. Given these definitions, we hope this essay achieves three goals. First, we aspire to celebrate the generative capacity of compassion by illustrating the wisdom and insight contained in compassion stories, and in particular in one of Peter’s compassion stories. Second, we invite reflection on the meaning of being a compassionate scholar through immersion in stories about Peter left by his colleagues after he died. Third, we discuss how compassion alters our focus, our work, and our imagination in organizational studies. Together, we hope all three angles on how compassion counts celebrate the contribution that Peter’s article is continuing to make in our field and in our lives.
Capitalism and compassion: are they incompatible? In a society devastated by unemployment, in which the richest 1% of Americans own nearly half of the country’s wealth, can compassionate organizing succeed?
…[A] growing body of literature focuses on compassion in organizations, primarily at the individual and group level of analysis. However, the current economic system under which the U.S. economy operates might create a fundamental tension in this regard. That is, the tenets of American corporate capitalism (ACC) might be in contradiction to compassionate organizing. ACC is an ideology that emphasizes, among other things, the pursuit of self-interest, competition, market exchange, consumerism, and using a profit/loss criterion to make decisions in organizations. Members of a society in which ACC is dominant may come to internalize the beliefs and values underlying ACC, which may be at odds with compassionate organizing. Indeed, management scholarship has tended to be dominated by a concern with economic performance and efficiency. In addition to this focus on efficiency and competitiveness as ultimate outcomes of interest, perhaps management scholars should also focus on social problems and social welfare concerns. Consistent with contemporary interest in compassion, key to advancing our knowledge in this area would be identifying the conditions under which organizations inflict the least harm and alleviate the most suffering.
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?
This 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:
Compassion 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.
“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” —Thomas Jefferson
We hope you’ve enjoyed our series on the challenges of leadership. Today’s post is all about leadership and ethics — and with Corporate Compliance and Ethics Week coming up next Monday, be sure to tune in for more related research and insights.
If we want leaders to model this competency and build ethical organizations, we must provide them with the tools to understand their values at a root level and how to act accordingly. Putting expectations into action for virtuous human systems means helping people understand how their values may serve as guides to behavioral choices. Without focused awareness and commitment to right action, these values can dissipate. [Read more]
Despite a business environment that highlights the importance of executives’ ethical leadership, the individual antecedents of ethical leadership remain largely unknown. In this study, the authors propose that follower perceptions of ethical leadership depend on the executive leader’s cognitive moral development (CMD) and, more importantly, on the relationship between executive leader and follower CMD. [Read more]
The result is the very real possibility that well-intentioned people who conscientiously perform their jobs will unintentionally participate in systems and processes that produce great harm. Some may not even be aware that they are doing anything wrong; they certainly intend no great harm, and furthermore, those around them would likely agree at the time that they are simply acting in consonance with accepted professional roles and practices. They may also play a crucial part in a larger process that perpetrates harm. [Read more]
“Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.” —John C. Maxwell (author, speaker, and pastor)
In 1978, James MacGregor Burns defined transformational leaders as those “who engaged with their followers in such a way that each was raised to a higher level of morality and motivation.” How are employee engagement and leadership related? Does innovation and creativity increase when employees feel they can personally identify with their leader? How can leaders meet the challenge of enhancing their employees’ well-being as well as their performance on the job?
…transformational leadership was positively related to personal identification with the leader, which was significantly associated with followers’ innovativeness, affective organizational commitment, and turnover intention. [Read more]
…leadership starts with the self. Leaders who are looking to build engaging climates should be encouraged to develop in the four domains of emotional intelligence, especially the domain of self-awareness. As the foundational domain for which the other three are developed, self-awareness is the conceptual cornerstone of emotional intelligence and in many ways of leadership that promotes the development of engagement. [Read more]
Increasing recognition is being given to the role that employee overall well-being plays in desired outcomes of today’s organizations. To help organizational leaders searching for understanding and answers, we propose that the positive core construct of psychological capital (or simply PsyCap), consisting of the positive psychological resources of hope, efficacy, resiliency, and optimism can be extended into the well-being domain. [Read more]
Is a narcissistic boss good or bad for the company? (Narcissus, via Wikipedia)
Editor’s note: This week, we are pleased to present a three-part series highlighting current research on key challenges facing leaders in the workplace.
“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.” —Jim Rohn (American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker)
Leaders are only human–and some of the most successful bosses out there can be arrogant, egotistical, and manipulative. Just how does this self-serving behavior positively or negatively affect employees, managers, and organizations?
At the core of an executive’s subjective assessment of risk is his or her sense of confidence. Compared with gamblers, who cannot influence whether their bets will work out, business executives may believe that their personal talents, as well as the capabilities of their organizations, can greatly affect whether their risky initiatives will bear fruit. [Read more]
Defined as an ego-defensive response to interruptions in goal attainment (Rosenzweig, 1944), frustration has been identified as an outcome of threatening social cues including perceived politics (Rosen et al., 2009), injustice (Lillis et al., 2007), and coworker counterproductive work behaviors (Fox and Spector, 1999). Supervisor ego-nurturing behavior, when persistent and focused, provokes frustration because it introduces bias that affects subsequent interactions and reward decisions (Emmons, 1984). [Read more]
Machiavellians are said to be manipulative people who reduce the social capital of the organization. Yet some authors note that Machiavellians are also highly adaptive individuals who are able to contribute, cooperate, and use pro-social strategies when it is advantageous to them. Here we study whether transformational leader behavior can stimulate Machiavellian followers to engage in organizationally desirable behaviors such as challenging organizational citizenship behavior. [Read more]
Do you know a leader who is particularly self-interested or overly demanding? Does this serve to increase their leadership effectiveness, or does it do more harm than good?
High Performance Work Systems are designed to enhance organizational performance by improving employee capability, commitment, and productivity. Yet there is very little consensus about the structure of these systems and the practices therein. The lack of structure may be inhibiting the growth of knowledge in this field and the degree to which organizations adopt these systems.