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Team Compassion: The Cure for Suffering at Work?

Team compassion alleviates suffering
Team compassion can help alleviate suffering at work. Find out if your team has enough compassion for one another!

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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused endless suffering over the last few years. We all wish we could put it behind us. But, with new virus mutations popping up, and people continuing to get sick, it’s impossible to do so. So many workplaces are struggling to deal with the impacts of COVID-19 on their employees. New research suggests that team compassion might be a solution.

We have talked about the power of compassion at work before on our blog and podcast. But, we haven’t discussed team compassion before. What is team compassion? And how can you cultivate it at work? Read more to find out.

What is Compassion?

Compassion is important, both at work and in life more broadly. Compassion may seem pretty straightforward. Isn’t it just caring for others? Actually, it’s a little more complicated. There are three components that make up compassion. First, you have to notice another person’s suffering. This means that you have to be in tune enough with your coworkers to realize they are hurting. Suffering can come from grief, illness, financial difficulties, job stress, or negative interpersonal relationships. As mentioned above, suffering has increased over the last few years. If you aren’t aware of your fellow employees’ suffering, it might just be that you’re not paying enough attention.

Compassion also has to do with having empathy for your coworkers once you recognize their suffering. Empathy helps you to show others that you support and care about them. So, once you know that someone is suffering, you have to listen to them and try to understand how they feel. Finally, you have to take action! Compassion isn’t just about feeling. It’s also about doing something about those feelings. So, the final component of compassion is taking steps to help alleviate your coworker’s suffering.

Team compassion starts with noticing when coworkers are struggling.
Team compassion starts with noticing when coworkers are struggling.

What is Team Compassion?

Team compassion is when these three components of compassion occur at the group level. How do you know if your team has a high level of compassion? Ask yourself the following questions. First, when members of your team start talking about their troubles, do you pay attention? Some teams might try to brush off struggles that others are having, or change the subject. Compassionate teams listen and allow space for coworkers to talk about challenges they are facing. Second, teams that demonstrate compassion are in tune with each other. So, even if someone isn’t talking about their struggles, the team notices that they aren’t their usual self. Do your team members notice when someone is having a bad day?

Once compassionate teams become aware that someone is suffering, they show care for those individuals. Do your team members tell each other that they care? Are they willing to be there for each other in times of need? Finally, compassionate teams set aside time to help each other get through hardships. Does your team take time to comfort members who are suffering? Are your team members really willing to go out of their way to help one another? If the answer to these questions is “yes”, you have higher team compassion. If not, you might need to work on it.

When team compassion is high, teams work better together and help each other more!
When team compassion is high, teams work better together and help each other more!

How Can You Grow Team Compassion?

When people experience more compassion at work, good things happen. First, people feel more positive emotions in environments that are more compassionate. Second, they feel more emotionally connected and committed to their organizations. In turn, stress is decreased. Employees want to stay in their jobs longer. And they are more likely to help one another with work tasks! So, growing compassion at work is a positive goal to strive toward.

If your team isn’t there yet, try finding avenues to connect outside of task-based conversations. Taking time to get to know one another, and to talk about something other than work, can help coworkers to notice each others’ emotions. Further, if someone shares that they are suffering, acknowledge it and set aside time to discuss it. Ignoring the problem won’t help. Finally, when you become aware that someone is suffering, try to reach out and check in with them. Ask what you can do to help. Make sure others on your team are doing so as well. After a while, compassion can become the norm in your team. But, you can be the person who gets the ball rolling!

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