Compassion at Work

Posted: 2/20/2012

by Vie Thorgren

A University of Michigan study conducted by Jacoba Lilius, Ph.D. and colleagues reveals that little acts of compassion in the workplace create an upward spiral that increases self-esteem, job satisfaction and job performance. Such acts of compassion also reduce job-related stress, number of sick days and errors on the job. The researchers found "convincing evidence of the large effects of seemingly small interpersonal acts such as lending an ear, extending a hand, or being present to someone in pain." These actions should not be dismissed as trivial. It seems that they serve as cues that workers intuitively use to understand the kind of place where they work and the kind of people with whom they work.

The study demonstrates that small acts of compassion create the following benefits in the workplace:

  • They shape the way people feel about their co-workers
  • They foster cooperation in the workplace; co-workers look out for each other,
    work more effectively as a team and resolve conflicts in a respectful manner
  • Individuals feel better about themselves and are more productive: they problem-solve
    difficulties and focus on the positive; they take fewer sick days and complain less frequently of stress
  • They create pride in the organization and a sense of participation in something larger than themselves


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