as published in Conway Daily Sun
Compassion need not be at the expense of reaching goals, making money, or being professional. Neither however, should reaching goals, making money or being professional be at the expense of compassion. I have heard from many business managers who say that the goals come first, that compassion is a luxury we cannot always afford, - even in the non-profit world, the mantra is often no money, no mission – which is true, so long as the money doesn’t replace the mission.
I would like to ask: why in the world, would anyone take a job, where they had to sacrifice compassion in the name of
reaching goals or making money?! Unfortunately, I know the answer to my own question – I have been there. I had the job where my boss demanded specific results. I remember a hotel manager who once spoke of customer complaint letters this way – Whenever we got a complain letter, he would check the records to see if we were sold out on the night of the guest’s stay. If we were, he ignored the complaint. If we had not sold out that night, the staff knew there would be hell to pay. The message could not be any clearer – the mission was to sell every room, every night. Occupancy first, average room revenue was second, guest satisfaction was third. This vision worked well for
producing a short-term bonus for the manager. Occupancy rates were high, repeat visits were low. It is easy to see how we get into jobs where we are expected to focus on misplaced priorities. When we need the paycheck, we sell our souls slowly, without even realizing we have done so. Somewhere along the way, we lost our vision to make a difference in people’s lives, to make the world, even if just in our little corner of it, just a tiny bit better. By the time we grow into positions of authority, we have often forgotten or lost somewhere in our cynicism, our natural wisdom, our principles and values. We have our own bonuses and incentives to earn to cover our mortgages and retirement plans.
What about being professional? What kind of profession would identify showing compassion as not “being professional”? Frankly most; mostly because people misunderstand what we mean by being compassionate. It is common to think that practices of compassion are too soft and squishy, too warm and fuzzy, too touchy-feely for the work place. People who promote the softer side of work relationships are seen as less productive, less concerned about real results, and less success-oriented. After all, we are here to produce real results, in a real world, and the touchy-feely stuff is nice, but who has time for that when we have so many urgent projects to complete?! Compassion in the workplace, with all stakeholders – employees, employers, co-workers, customers, and vendors, increases productivity and lowers costs. This is proven, measurable, and universal. In The Speed of Trust, by Stephen M.R. Covey (son of the 7 Habits Covey), Covey explains the trust tax – the high cost of conducting business in a low-trust environment, vs the trust dividend you earn in a high-trust relationship. Perhaps it involves weeks of negotiating a contract with lawyers when a handshake would have done nicely. Perhaps it is simply a worker double-checking your work because they do not trust that you are competent. This is very expensive and a huge waste of
time. If we agree on this simple concept of a trust tax and a trust dividend, then what does it take to increase trust?
Building trust requires time, attention, listening, caring, being honest, transparent, extending trust, and making promises that you keep. Dammit, we’re right back into the touchy-feely stuff, aren’t we?!
I frequently hear employees say that it will not work in their workplace because of the owner, or the management. On the contrary, in my experience, I have discovered that even the most power-hungry, domineering, greedy and seemingly un-loving people in the world, really only want the same thing the rest of the world wants. We all have different ways that our desires manifest, but at some level, we are all striving for love and connectedness. We are all made of the same stuff, so the feeling of being separated drives us to do crazy things in an effort to win back some sense of being loved and connected. It is my belief, that even the worst tyrant in the world is driven by some deep-rooted belief that if they gain enough power, wealth, control (or whatever), they will finally have their true desire, or make people regret their not having it. If only they knew how easy the shortcut to love and connectedness really is. I love my work because I get to bring the touchy-feely stuff into the workplace in a way that produces better long-term
real-world business results with a higher level of compassion, love and trust.