What is compassion?

Compassion is a sensitivity to the suffering of self and others with a deep commitment to try to relieve it.

As described by the Dalai Lama:

 Once we have a firm practice of compassion our state of mind becomes stronger which leads to inner peace, giving rise to self-confidence, which reduces fear. This makes for constructive members of the community. Self-centredness, on the other hand, leads to distance, suspicion, mistrust and loneliness, with unhappiness as the result.

Why do we need compassion in the workplace?

The cost of stress is $300 billion per year for organisations.  A large portion of our stress and frustration comes from our working lives as a lot of our hopes and fears are directly related. The common bond of humanity is that we all want to have a nice, happy life; we all want to feel good about our work and ourselves. Being more compassionate with others and ourselves has a strong link to higher satisfaction and well-being. As our workforce becomes more engaged, productive and happy there is less stress and burnout as a result.

How do we cultivate compassion?

We must first develop self-compassion. You may have noticed that whilst you can be considerate and caring to friends, family and others who need your support – can you honestly say you are that kind to yourself? Our self-criticism can be so unkind we wouldn’t say those things out loud to someone we didn’t like nevermind anyone else!


Lack of self-compassion can put us under a lot of unnecessary pressure too so learning self-kindness and changing the way we speak to ourselves can have many benefits such as:

Increases in: life satisfaction, connectedness, coping resilience, self-confidence and gratitude.

Reduced: anxiety, depression, stress and perfectionism.

Self-compassion is strongly likened to motivation & accountability:

  • Greater desire to grow & learn
  • Personal standards as high but not as upset when not met
  • More likely to try again when failure is experienced
  • More conscientious
  • Take greater responsibility for mistakes
  • Disposition to apologise

Simply by recognising we are all human and cannot be perfect makes such a difference to the way we view ourselves and how we can learn to be more accepting and patient with others.

Compassion for colleagues

From learning how to be self-compassionate we can then bring this from the bottom up to our colleagues to develop supportive relationships where we help each other and build a culture of ‘we-ness’. Adopting this attitude has a ripple effect to 3 degrees of separation so it can quickly grow to have a sizeable impact.

Then, taking it from the top down by:

  • Having compassionate leaders
  • Introducing appropriate training
  • Incorporating this culture into the company’s mission

What is culture?

The culture of an organisation is a reflection of the values and beliefs of the current leaders and the legacy of past leaders.  In today’s society, we don’t want to have to choose between ‘live to work/work to live’ we want to be present throughout it all, our work should be an extension of our life’s enjoyment and fulfilment.

Barrett Values Centre uses the term ‘Cultural Entropy’ to describe the amount of energy consumed doing unnecessary or unproductive work that does not add value. This significantly impacts employee engagement.

Benefits of a compassionate culture at work

Organisations who incorporated compassion and well-being as part of their mission saw increased:

  • Productivity
  • Health
  • Relationships
  • Loyalty
  • Customer service

Why stick with a stagnant culture simply because of traditional values?

Be revolutionary and create a workplace that:

  • Inspires and excites your employees
  • Employees care for themselves, each other, their jobs and the company
  • Attracts talent
  • Increases productivity and retention
  • Boosts revenue!

I’d like to ask you – in what way can you start to cultivate compassion personally and within your organisation today?


This post was updated in November 2018


Our 50:50 mission is to achieve gender equality in the workplace

Women need to be able to gain the right skills, have access to opportunities and become more confident to progress within their organisation or career path.
Men must be involved in breaking down barriers, changing behaviours and company culture – equality is by and for everyone.

If you would like support with gender diversity in your workplace, visit www.5050future.co.uk or contact us to arrange a chat
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