Compassionate leadership key for growth of any organisation
Compassionate leadership can dismantle toxic workplace cultures and foster incredible regimes of immense productivity and fulfilment for employees
For instance, if an old worker has difficulty conducting Zoom meetings, instead of sanctions or reprimands, feedback and guidance can help, not only in improving employee productivity but also preventing an unfavourable outcome where the employee no longer intends to associate with the organization
With enormous setbacks sweeping the professional landscape in the time of the pandemic and numerous major changes in the offing, we can safely say that we need fresh responses for unprecedented trouble. Among the most prominent difficulties of these times has been managing talent and keeping them on board as all taken-for-granted normal wither away. As BBC reports, April 2021 saw the US witness a record four million job resignations, a Microsoft survey of more than 30,000 global workers last year showed that 41 per cent of workers were considering quitting or changing professions, and a study from HR software company Personio of workers in the UK and Ireland showed 38 per cent of those surveyed planned to quit in the next six months to a year. The reason behind what was popularly dubbed "The Great Resignation", as several studies showed, was the inflexible, unempathetic attitude of employers who remained indifferent to the plight of their workers. As Omicron and other variants continue to perpetuate the Covid-19 crisis, it is essential for us to remedy this problem and the short answer to this conundrum can be leading with compassion.
Compassion, or active empathy has traditionally been appreciated and upheld as a remarkable professional asset. In a leadership paper first published in 1966 by Bowers and Seashore, "behaviour that enhances someone else's feeling of personal worth" was named as one of four crucial components to effective leadership. According to leadership development firm DDI, empathy is the single most important leadership skill, with leaders who practice and master empathy performing more than 40 percent higher in coaching, engagement and decision-making. A 2016 study from the Center for Creative Leadership examined 6,731 managers from 38 countries and found that empathy is also positively related to job performance.
The problem occurs when compassion and empathy seem difficult in the face of crises as massive as a pandemic and employers are desperate enough for professional gains to push employees to their limits. However, this desperation is detrimental to business and work, as demonstrated by the great exodus of talent from firms in the previous year. In the US retail sector, as a BBC report mentions, for example, over 650,000 workers quit in April 2021 due to longer working hours with no safety measures or rewards and no guarantee of paid sick leave. A survey by executive search firm Korn Ferry found that 94 per cent of retailers had a difficult time filling empty roles.Therefore, it is time to acknowledge that the humanity of employees has to be accepted and the traditionally endorsed virtue of compassion is the correct choice to make on both professional and humanitarian grounds.
If we ask ourselves the simplest question, 'why empathise?'There is a surfeit of answers, with organizational resilience leading the pack. Amidst disruptive markets and an unstable world, business resilience depends upon reorientations and pivoting quickly in tune with new developments. This is not easy for employees, who, with their human limitations can find the instability difficult to make sense of. When all sanity crumbles, working under compassionate leaders can make all the difference. This is true even for something as widespread as remote work, as data shows that remote work will stabilise only for 25 to 40 percent of the global workforce. Leaders in several locations consequently have to analyze remote and hybrid work arrangements to understand their costs and benefits, and employee wellbeing has to be factored in. For instance, if an old worker has difficulty conducting Zoom meetings, instead of sanctions or reprimands, feedback and guidance can help, not only in improving employee productivity but also preventing an unfavourable outcome where the employee no longer intends to associate with the organization.
Countless numbers of people around the world have been personally or indirectly impacted by the global crises and in such a circumstance, unpleasantness from an employer can shatter employee motivation and cause talent to flee. In response, as expert, John M Bremen remarks, future-focused leaders promote employee wellbeing (physical, emotional, financial, social), connecting the support of healthy, resilient employees to healthy, resilient organizations. Building greater organizational resilience is a defining mandate of the current environment, and provides a new form of competitive advantage. To create resilience across risk factors impacting operations, finances, and people, leaders double down on practicality, strategic risk management, flexibility, agility, compassion and transparency. In this regard, compassion can be shown through often-articulated appreciation and regard, flexible schedules and provision of necessary paid leaves, polite feedback, guidance and training alongside a reiteration of the importance workers hold for the purpose of the organization.
Compassionate leadership can dismantle toxic workplace cultures and foster incredible regimes of immense productivity and fulfilment for employees. In times of unabated difficulties for humankind, it can be the intervention we urgently need - for a solidarity that propels us to a future of great harvests of human endeavour.
(The author is Chief Impact Officer at Recykal Foundation)