Awakening Compassion at Work

by Monica C. Worling and Jane E. Dutton
© 2017 by Monica C. Worling and Jane E. Dutton
Published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
ISBN 9-781626-564459
Reviewed April 2017

The subtitle of this book is The Quiet Power that Elevates People and Organizations. From reading this book, the subtitle is compelling. In a business world – at least in the United States – where the only objective is this quarter’s earnings, this book gives more justification to the approach of doing well by doing good. In this case, the approach to employees is one of compassion. If we start with a compassionate approach, retention will increase, engagement will be stronger, and individuals will thrive. This is the latest in a series of books, many from Berrett-Koehler Publishers, whose authors are proponents of a collaborative approach to management. Data show that results improve if we as managers start by believing employees are best motivated when engaged – what Dan Negroni, in his book Chasing Relevance, calls API or assuming positive intent.

It can be argues that business leaders are compensated for leveraging results. This can best be done through an organization’s greatest asset, the employees. After a compelling introduction, Worling and Dutton point us to two sections of the book that, respectively, address a compassionate approach to work and within organizations. They steer us to four elements that will awaken compassion: noticing, interpreting, feeling, and acting. This is followed by empowering, understanding, designing, and leading for a management approach that is capable of operating with compassion. Finally, the book concludes with tools to implement a compassionate approach.

Lest the reader think this is all to simply provide a feel-good approach, the authors present compelling data based on over 20 years of field research. We are told – believably – that businesses that express compassion for employees exhibit better financial performance, operate more effectively, and retain both employees and customers at higher rates than those who ignore compassion factors. In examining malpractice claims, the authors point to research that shows that a legalistic approach to managing malpractice claims works against healthcare providers. Citing an article from Clinical Orthopedics and related Research, the authors note that the number of lawsuits decreased when physicians or administrators addressed suffering and apologized for errors.

In short, if we are to be better leaders, we should read and apply the lessons from these two scholars who present a very readable book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This book was received for free from the author but a positive review was not required. The opinions expressed are those of the reviewer. This disclosure is in accordance with the United States Federal Trade Commission’s “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” 16 CFR, Part 255.