Updated: Nov 2, 2020
Be strong, look strong, don’t smile, a nod only, it’s enough. Just look sharp, the strong gaze is great for your confidence. It’s important, don’t be who you are, it’s just business.
Have you already pictured someone who can fit in this description?
If you have ever collaborated, at any level, with someone who is unapproachable, most probably you didn’t get to connect with that person deeply, and that was not the first colleague to whom you would turn to share your ideas, something interesting that has just happened to you or someone you would ask for advice and support.
The truth is that we are being selective with expressing our emotions, especially at work, and because of that, even when someone cares about you as a colleague, they may not even show it to you, precisely because of the opinion that a stricter attitude is much more appropriate for a work atmosphere than showing you that they care.
Question is: Can we be professional and “soft”?
Character traits, personal attributes and other non- technical abilities that help you work and communicate with people on the job are as equally important as your tangible knowledge of systems, procedures, laws or any other skill that you might be bringing to the table, that comes with your degree or experience.
Confucius thought us that compassion, courage, and wisdom are the basis of moral qualities in men and since teamwork and communication are weak points for many organizations today, we can say that acts of kindness, understanding for the needs of others, a supportive and collaborative attitude all result from love and compassion.
Professionalism itself is a soft skill.
It is a very well-known fact today that demanding workplaces have psychological and physical consequences on employees. We also know how high levels of workplace stress are linked to increased absenteeism, turnover, and lower levels of performance and eventually of profits, and much research is showing us the same.
But how are we contributing to it and what can we do about it?
Studies have shown us that workplaces, where compassion prevails, have less turnover, higher employee engagement, and are more productive, as a result. Also, organizations that have embraced compassion, have more satisfied employees who are in turn more engaged with their work, but also, more loyal to the company.
Showing employees that you care about them promotes healthy relationships, better communication, and also builds trust.
Simple things such as maintaining responsibility for colleagues, avoiding blame, and forgiving mistakes can be unimaginably meaningful to your employees if you attempt communicating your goals and ideas in a bit more compassionate way.
One of the simplest ways to start practicing it can be through a very important part in our daily workplace communication- giving feedback. Can it be communicated in such a way that employee feels valued and cared for, as opposed to feeling ashamed?
There are tons of articles on how to give feedback, but it doesn’t have to be a negative, daunting, and demoralizing process. Compassion has the potential to make this experience mutually valuable to both sides involved in giving feedback.
Would you rather have your supervisor calling you at your office or sending you an email because you forgot to do something for a client that you were supposed to do, and simply stating it was your job to do it. Or would you prefer your supervisor backing you up, assuring the client that it will be all sorted out immediately and then reminding you in case you have forgotten about it?
We all make mistakes, we forget, we make promises we sometimes don’t fulfill.
“ If your compassion doesn’t include yourself, it’s incomplete” Buddha.
And lastly, there is no compassion without self-compassion. So we shouldn’t worry about looking weak if we understand what self-compassion is- having your boundaries and standards.
Compassion is a win-win for everyone and like all other emotional stages, it is contagious. The good news is that it can be learned, achieved, and practiced. By practicing it, teams can become more tolerant, co-operative, and overall better.
Dr. Kristin Neff, for example, talks about this circle of compassion and the relation between self-esteem and self-compassion and she elaborates it in one of her talks, why self-compassion is an important aspect here.
“People who are high in self-compassion are also high in wisdom. More specifically, people who are high in self-compassion have emotional resilience.” DR. Chris Germer
Compassion isn’t just listening to someone’s problems or being aware of how your words affect others, it also means showing support, showing initiation, and that is what leaders do, not only motivating employees.
There is much more to compassionate leadership than this. What is important to awaken is that it is not reserved for leaders only, it is for everybody to practice it. Compassionate workplace leads not only to a greater sense of connection among team members, it is valuable because by showing it, you can assist others, your organization, and yourself.
Author: Ana Smiljkovic
Ana is a certified HR and L&D professional, focused on growth and education, helping people develop their potential through learning key soft skills for career building, with a particular interest in resilience in the workplace