Suffering in the workplace can rob our colleagues and coworkers of humanity, dignity, and motivation and is an unrecognized and costly drain on organizational potential. Marshaling evidence from two decades of field research, scholars and consultants Monica Worline and Jane Dutton show that alleviating such suffering confers measurable competitive advantages in areas like innovation, collaboration, service quality, and talent attraction and retention. They outline four steps for meeting suffering with compassion and show how to build a capacity for compassion into the structures and practices of an organization—because ultimately, as they write, “Compassion is an irreplaceable dimension of excellence for any organization that wants to make the most of its human capabilities.”
About the Author
Monica C. Worline, PhD, is CEO of EnlivenWork. She is a research scientist at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and Executive Director of CompassionLab.
Jane E. Dutton, PhD, is the Robert L. Kahn Distinguished University Professor of Business Administration and Psychology and cofounder of the Center for Positive Organizations at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business; she is also a founding member of CompassionLab.
Foreword author Raj Sisodia is a professor at Babson College and the co-founder of Conscious Capitalism, Inc.
2017 Silver Nautilus Award Winner in the Business & Leadership category.
“A remarkably thorough and compelling read that will remind you how much more potential exists if we can bring more care and compassion into our organizations.” —Tom Rath, New York Times bestselling author of StrengthsFinder 2.0
“Awakening Compassion at Work takes a candid look at both the joy and the suffering present in our workplaces. How we frankly acknowledge that suffering and transform it is a critical competency for any leader in the 21st century. This book is a marvelous guide for that transformation.” —Pat Christen, Managing Director, The Omidyar Group
“The definitive guide to research and practice on unleashing compassion at work. The world’s leading experts reveal how we can build teams and organizations where people stop checking their values at the office door and start caring about each other.” —Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take and Originals
“Work is a place where most of us spend a large percentage of our waking hours. Yet for many, the workplace remains a source of stress and anxiety. In their landmark book, Worline and Dutton give us an overview of the problem and science based solutions. It will help individuals not only in the workplace but in their lives. For the employer, it is a powerful tool to give employees meaning in their work and to increase creativity, productivity, and ultimately shareholder value.” —James R. Doty, MD, Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery and founder and Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, Stanford University School of Medicine, and New York Times bestselling author of Into the Magic Shop
“The go-to book on the hottest new trend in the corporate world: compassion. Worline and Dutton have spent years researching positive deviance: how to bring greater humanity to the workplace. Their work is groundbreaking: a compassionate workplace is happier, healthier, and more productive. Packed with real-world examples of the many companies they have advised and researched, Awakening Compassion at Work is for all those who want to see themselves and their company succeed to its full potential.” —Emma Seppälä, PhD, Science Director, Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, Stanford University, and author of The Happiness Track
“In today’s ever so fast-paced, technological, and profit-driven world, our humanity in the workplace is all too often passed over or even forgotten. Awakening Compassion at Work not only contains memorable examples of noticing, interpreting, feeling, and acting on suffering in the workplace but also provides a toolkit for engaging colleagues in using compassionate actions to create new norms and routines that nurture our bonding together and resilience to innovate, collaborate, and improve our work environment. I highly recommend that you read this enjoyable and forward-thinking book to awaken your compassionate self, not only at work, but also at home.” —Roger Newton, Executive Chairman and Chief Scientific Officer, Esperion Therapeutics, Inc. “Seldom do we get a gift that helps us step outside of our self-centered lives into noticing and caring about others—beyond feeling for them to helping reduce suffering and make others’ lives and work fulfilling. Worline and Dutton offer us the emotional glue that binds our social fabric in organizations and cultures through compassion. Steeped in rigorous research but without the obfuscation of academia, the book draws you in with engaging stories and gives you hope with the authors’ exercises and guidance in how to reduce the toxicity of guilt and blame and create a new social architecture of caring. Read it—it will fill your soul!” —Richard Boyatzis, PhD, Distinguished University Professor, Departments of Psychology, Cognitive Science, and Organizational Behavior, Case Western Reserve University, and coauthor of Primal Leadership
“Monica Worline and Jane Dutton are the world’s experts on the subject of compassion in organizations. Theirs was the first research conducted on this topic almost two decades ago, and their insight and practical wisdom is captured in this volume. This is the statement on what we know and what we can do about the subject of compassion in organizations.” —Kim Cameron, PhD, William Russell Kelly Professor of Management and Organizations, Ross School of Business, and Professor of Higher Education, School of Education, University of Michigan
“With Awakening Compassion at Work, Monica Worline and Jane Dutton bring to bear their academic brilliance, sizable hands-on experience in business and psychology, and a gift for getting to the core of a principle that is essential to individual and organizational success. Using in-depth research, collaborative explorations in first-rate organizations, a boatload of meaningful and moving examples, and practical guidelines for igniting the remarkable power of compassion, the authors have fashioned an essential, pragmatic, and fascinating book that will be riveting reading for anyone in the workplace.” —Ari Cowan, Director General, The International Center for Compassionate Organizations
“In our rapid-change, hypercompetitive, and global economy, encountering a compassionate leader can be rare; being embraced within a compassionate organization culture even more so. In contrast to this harsh organizational anthropology, Worline and Dutton set forth with conceptual clarity and rich exemplification practices that empirically lead toward a compassionate organizational milieu. Any leader perusing this manuscript will experience a shift in consciousness. Enacting the new wisdom will radically change an organization’s culture.” —André L. Delbecq, PhD, Professor of Management and Senior Fellow, Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education, Santa Clara University
“If you are one of the many who think compassion has no place in business, read this book. Extraordinary performance comes from tapping into the full power of your team. After more than thirty years in business, one thing is clear to me: compassion is central in a culture that gets extraordinary results.” —David Drews, founder and CE0, Justus Equity, LLC
“Suffering is inevitable and can reveal itself anytime, anywhere. This inspiring book will transport you into work worlds that dare to care. Discoveries from the Compassion Lab spring to life in vivid stories of how compassion and work go hand in hand in successful organizations. Most importantly, Worline and Dutton offer practical guidance on how to reshape the social architecture of your organizations to support the improvisation of authentic compassionate acts. This book holds the power to open hearts worldwide.” —Barbara L. Fredrickson, PhD, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and author of Positivity and Love 2.0
“Groundbreaking! Based on fifteen years of scholarly research, this book makes the case for compassion in the workplace—both interpersonally and systemically—and offers a clear blueprint for how to do it. The authors offer design principles and nuanced examples that reflect the day-to-day reality of organizational life, encouraging and empowering readers to go out and try it for themselves. This book is destined to change many lives for the better.” —Christopher Germer, PhD, faculty, Harvard Medical School, author of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, and co-editor of Mindfulness and Psychotherapy
“What we produce and how we produce the goods and services all around us is one of the most important human issues of our age. From the sweatshops of Asia to the boardrooms of high technology, we know that there can be considerable competitive pressures that cause great stress and at times deeply immoral behavior. Dutton and Worline are world leaders and pioneers in the extraordinarily important turn toward more compassionate work. Here is a book that outlines in detail some of the challenges a compassionate approach to work confronts and how to deal with them. This is an outstanding book that will be a classic for years to come. It will aid greatly the human endeavor to create a more compassionate world.” —Paul Gilbert, PhD, FBPsS, OBE, Professor, Centre for Compassion Research and Training, College of Health and Social Care Research Centre, University of Derby
“Hurrah! Worline and Dutton have made the business case for compassion and created a road map for bringing it to life in any organization. Their courage and clear seeing lead us to a more productive and positive future.” —Edi Pasalis, MBA, MTS, Director, Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living
“Workplaces are often toxic and actually give rise to human suffering. Drawing on extensive research, the authors show the many positive outcomes of recognizing and confronting this truth. With great skill they show us how to create organizations that alleviate suffering and awaken compassion. This is a must-read that will be with us for a very long time.” —Robert E. Quinn, PhD, Professor, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, and author of The Positive Organization
“The value of this book is that it clearly articulates not only why but how to stimulate cultural elements that will make alleviation of suffering through compassion an everyday occurrence for any organization that desires to do so. I am blown away with the authors’ ability to move this complex and oft-avoided concept of compassion into an easily accessible initiative for any organization. Not only does this benefit individuals experiencing suffering, but thanks to the clear strategies for implementation, profound cultural strengthening can occur.” —Fred Keller, founder and Chair, Cascade Engineering