Walk into most any boardroom, suggest compassion as a key to resolving conflict, and watch the eyes roll. Compassion in a corporate environment is often seen as merely ‘touchy/feely’ drivel.

It’s not. So, why even consider compassion?

Compassion — the a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate that suffering — is essential to an organisation’s survival and success. Those at work often not only experience suffering in their personal lives, but in their professional lives as well. It appears in the form of bullying, intimidation, discounting, humiliation and threats; miscommunication and misunderstanding; envy, jealousy, resentment, impatience and incivility; poor communication; unfairness, favouritism and discrimination; insufficient pay and benefits; domination by managers, excessively heavy workloads and drudgery; lack of inclusion, respect and belonging; an absence of a sense of purpose and meaning; poor working conditions; and insufficient mental challenges.

These conditions are a breeding ground for conflict between employees, customers, investors, vendors, advocacy groups and others. Organisational success depends on engaging employees, developing excellence in all aspects of the organisation, building customer trust, creating an environment strongly supportive of creativity and innovation, enlisting the support of communities in which the organisation is located and creating a great place to work — one that draws outstanding talent and produces sustainable results. Unhealthy conflict sabotages this success. Compassion can provide a means to prevent conflict and, when it occurs, to manage and resolve it. Here’s an example.

Oct-Dec 2014 issue

The International Center for Compassionate Organizations