Has it ever happened to you that o their problems, although all they were looking for was an empathetic ear. This is a common scenario and could have happened to any of us and this is exactly why we need to cultivate cognitive compassion at work, especially in times like these when there is negativity and grief around us. Everyone is grappling with the pandemic and has possibly got impacted in some way, mentally and emotionally.

Research supports the proposition that organizations that operate compassionately have employees with greater job satisfaction and less stress. Workplace compassion also promotes employee engagement, dedication, and loyalty, and fosters interpersonal relationships. But does it come to us easily?

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Often, employees don’t perceive the culture to be sufficiently open to sharing their problems. They fear the risk of judgment or an adverse impact on their performance evaluation if they open up about their concerns. It could further be complicated by the fact that managers and leaders are more focused on outcomes than the people achieving them. This leads to general apathy on both sides, which amplifies in difficult and trying times like the COVID times when the workplace dynamics have changed with everyone working from home and facing uncertain times.

Ira Gilani, Director of Goldratt India says, “Organisations recognize these are uncertain times. Everyone is adapting to these times, both on a professional and personal front, and some may need more support than others. Leaders who recognize these needs, act with empathy and build resilience, will emerge with stronger, more cohesive teams at the end of the day.”



If you are a leader or looking to be one, here are some suggestions to develop cognitive compassion:

Be self-aware

Compassionate leaders are usually more aware of their own limitations and biases (conscious and unconscious) and more open to accepting criticism.

Be an active listener

It is important to inculcate good listening skills free from any judgment. It also entails carefully stating opinions to someone, when discussing underperformance or failure.

Create a safe workspace

Leaders who look out for their colleagues can make them feel secure in case they are undergoing any stress.

Be approachable
An approachable leader can make the team comfortable at work and provide a safe environment without any repercussions.

Cognitive compassion is also beneficial for a team/organization as it cultivates leaders who:

  • Encourage diverse views which in turn helps employees table new ideas without fear of judgment.
  • Bring people along once a decision is taken as they can clearly explain/rationalize the decision, incorporating all points of view
  • Promote a more tolerant, open and innovative organizational culture
  • Enable a better understanding of others’ perspectives that helps determine the best way to move forward in difficult situations.

Aditi Srivastava, Director of India Business at American Express, feels that cognitive compassion also drives ‘inclusion’. It creates an environment where people are open-minded and willing to understand a perspective different from theirs versus simply imposing their views. They are also able to incorporate other people’s perspectives which in turn has a cascading effect across the organization.

A culture of compassion begins with creating empathetic relationships with own team members which ultimately culminates in bringing about a common sense of purpose and engagement. Isn’t this what all organizations are always looking for?

The Dalai Lama said, “When we are motivated by compassion and wisdom, the results of our actions benefit everyone, not just ourselves or some immediate convenience.”

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