If you want to be a more positive influence on others and achieve higher success in life, learning how to be more compassionate is one way of achieving that. Compassion is finding the proper balance in caring for others, for the business, and for yourself. More importantly, compassion is going out of your way to help others. In short, it’s great to feel compassion for others but greater still if you do something about it and this creates a leadership who others willingly follow.

Thupten Jinpa. Jinpa, a Tibetan Scholar and longtime English translator for the Dalai Lama defines compassion as “a mental state endowed with a sense of concern for the suffering of others and aspiration to see that suffering relieved.” Specifically, he defines compassion as having three components:

  • A cognitive component: “I understand you”
  • An affective component: “I feel for you”
  • A motivational component: “I want to help you”

In a nutshell, a compassionate person is one who embodies the Golden Rule:

5 Practical ways to be more compassionate at work

Being compassionate is something you can learn. People who are completely oblivious to others do it out of choice or because they have been conditioned to do so. There are many ways to start learning how to be compassionate as a leader. You can try these 5 ways right now:

  1. Spend time with others. Make the effort to seek out your employees or team and ask them about work, a little trivia about their lives but nothing too personal, or just talk about the day’s events. It will be awkward at the start and you will have to set the ground rules for this kind of socialization so you avoid the pitfalls of too much familiarity. For instance, keep the conversation away from private matters. It would be enough to get to know their nicknames and a little about their family background. You should also avoid getting physically close to the other person. Maintain a respectable distance and be consistent in your attitude and greetings.
  2. Offer help and assistance to those who need it. Deadlines are always stressful times so, if you can, volunteer to help provided you can handle the additional work. If you don’t have the time, you can offer them guidance on how to do the job more efficiently. You must also guard against pampering or spoiling them with too much help as this will be counterproductive and ultimately, not help them grow professionally.
  3. Establish a work environment that is collaborative. Learn to listen to ideas and suggestions from others. In fact, let your team know that you are always open to their ideas and will give each suggestion serious consideration. However, never use their input for your personal career growth and promotion without giving them due recognition.
  4. Encourage your employees or team to strive to be better and make an effort to acknowledge their efforts, strengths, and special skills especially in front of others. Be consistent with your appreciation when behaviours merit it. Empty, insincere gestures will backfire and make you look shallow and fake.
  5. Do one act of kindness a day at work and lead by example. This means you must always be ready to question your motives when making decisions and when speaking.

Compassion Fatigue: What Is It and how to avoid It

Every person of position and authority can suffer from compassion fatigue. This is when a person becomes overwhelmed by the problems of other people that he or she starts to not feel anything. It’s like what happens to a person who reads the newspaper daily – eventually, the shocking stories don’t seem so shocking anymore.

According to Dr. Charles Figley, expert on compassion fatigue and mental health and professor at the Tulane University, compassion fatigue is a state of distress. It can be traumatic because it causes tension, stress, and apathy, and could even be destructive.

The signs of compassion fatigue include bottled-up emotions, isolation, excessive blaming, compulsive behavior, excessive complaining, nightmares, chronic health problems, lethargy, preoccupation, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. If the person experiences compassion fatigue at work, the symptoms include high turnover rates, chronic absenteeism, missed deadlines and appointments, friction, poor productivity, and a tense workplace.

Healing compassion fatigue starts with recognizing the problem and staying committed to resolving the issue. Sometimes, the problem is with the recipient of the compassion who may be jaded and distrustful of your overture. You can even be in a situation where you are given a team that is disenchanted with work and forced to stay at a job they do not love. Your challenge would be to develop the team and improve their output while working to make them feel important and motivated. Compassion itself becomes the key to unlocking compassion fatigue.

How to avoid compassion fatigue

  • Place a higher value on people rather than meeting deadlines and increasing profits
  • Let people know they matter and give them attention through listening without interruption
  • Be open to change
  • Encourage passion in others and in yourself
  • Appreciate the qualities you recognize in your team members letting them know how they add value. Give feedback in a way to help them grow and work together to design construction solutions to improve performance if required.

The power of compassion in leadership

Studies repeatedly show that when you show compassion to your employees, loyalty builds and trust is established. Furthermore, your employees will see you with high regard and will be willing to go beyond what is in their job description.

Finally, simple ways to show compassion include thinking before speaking, putting yourself in others’ shoes, and knowing how to forgive. All it takes are these 3 simple ways to get started in becoming a compassionate and effective leader. The Dalai Lama suggests: “True compassion is not just an emotional response but a firm commitment characterised by action”.

 What are your thoughts for being more compassionate at work?