We now have an increasingly clear picture of how various sources of pain contribute to a toxic workplace, one in which employees feel their confidence weakened, their self esteem undermined and their hope diminished or destroyed. (Seeing Organizations Differently: Three Lenses on Compassion. Sage Handbook of Organizational Studies).
For so long we have fallen for the trope that work life and home life were separated by a barrier of rational thought and kept apart by sensibility and a raft of concrete HR policies to serve as barricades. Turns out we were just turning a blind eye, crossing our fingers and policing our own shadow. Of course we bring the pain we experience in our lives into our work place.
It’s the breathing, moving, fearful, joyful, hungry, tired or exuberant human being that comes to work every day. We work with real people. Our colleagues have tossed and turned at night, physically caught trams and trains and buses to get to be with us, they’ve kissed goodbye the wet faces of small children and hunted for lost keys. They are not flesh covered thinking machines. We get tired and we get sick. We worry. And then we get up and go to work.
At night we travel home from work in the darkened tram. We’ve been shouted at by our manager; or ignored by a colleague; or come to the realisation that we are not going to be promoted. Maybe we’ve held the hand of a patient as they sucked their last breath or maybe today was an exceptionally good day and we’re humming the tune of Come on Get Happy. Work travels with us. We take it home, where no-one, except us, will befriend it. The Centre for Grief Recovery estimated that the hidden cost of workplace grief exceeds $75 million per year.
Workplaces can also become fertile ground for compassionate leadership. Our interactions can soothe, calm, and increase happiness. I see great examples in healthcare of people who are connected to their purpose so strongly that it plays itself out every day at work. They are able to be with others and take care of themselves. Given that we will spend 20,000 hours at work over our lifetime, I think we need to invest that time compassionately.
At the Compassion Lab we spend two days learning how to design more compassionate work and home lives. Often when people hear about the Compassion Lab, they lean in towards me and say in a hushed tone “I know someone who could really benefit from these two days.” I generally say ” yeah, me”. This Lab isn’t for some other person who we think doesn’t get it. It’s not a boot camp, it’s not detention and it’s not a spiritual exercise.
Our organisations need to become more compassionate. In healthcare it is an imperative both for patient and staff safety. Compassion Lab is a space for people who are really serious about delivering great care and the best client experience, every time. If you’re half-hearted about outcomes it’s probably not calling your name.
We’ve crafted a Compassion Lab for people who whose work intersects with the mental health system and it’s coming up very soon in Melbourne – 24th and 25th August. I want you to join me in creating a more compassionate world. Register now at Compassion-lab
Please get in touch if you need me to hold some places for you and your team as we only admit 40 people to each Lab.
I believe that at every level of society – familial, national and international – the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion. His Holiness the Dalai Lama
See you at the Lab.