The Compassionate Workplace
by Jeff Montgomery
For those of us engaged in business or the professions, numbers play a large role in determining the level of our success. For sales people there are sales goals to meet, for managers there are profit or budget targets to meet or exceed, for senior executives there are shareholder returns to meet, and for those of us in the trenches success is measured by things like the number of projects we complete and whether they were on schedule and on budget.
Tracking to these numerical goals has its advantages. The numbers used are generally accepted ways of measuring whether business activities are successful or not, so the end result is easily understood by those involved.
It's easy to measure improvement or slippage using numbers from similar previous tracking periods (i.e., previous months, quarters, or years.) But there is also danger in relying only on numbers to determine whether people are succeeding or failing. As we all know, influences from outside the 'office' (whether a home office or a traditional office or cubicle) can and do have a major affect on our work performance. And relying solely on the numbers doesn't take these things into account. What's missing is compassion and understanding.
Granted, there are a number of fine executives, managers, and companies that are very compassionate with their employees, and God bless them for their efforts. But all too often there are stories of people dealing with the loss of a loved one or a loved one's declining health, or the need to care for elderly parents, or a troubled teenager and are fired because their work performance suffers and their 'numbers', whatever they are, are not up to snuff.
Here's a real-life example. Awhile back, I managed a small group of people, and for several weeks during that time one of my folks had been dealing with a series of family issues that brought her to the brink of a nervous breakdown. Her doctor instructed her to take two weeks off, sleep (for she had been losing a lot of sleep), and to determine what she could control and what she couldn't, and to forget about what she couldn't control.
So the issue came down to this: let the person take the time and face the ire of senior executives who didn't agree, or not allow the time off and watch a good person go over the cliff.
The issue boils down to this: What kind of Catholic are we? Do we put into practice what we say we believe, or do we skirt the issue and do what's best for ourselves? If we put our beliefs into practice, that sometimes means putting ourselves on the line and risking some of our well-crafted comfort. Jesus said that he is always with us, even unto the end of time. This means that he is with us in good and bad, and in comfort and risk. If our decisions are determined through prayer and with an open heart to God's leading, He will guide us to the right decision. And best of all, He will be standing there with us through it all.
That doesn't necessarily mean that the road will be smooth, but we can take comfort in knowing that it is the right road.
St. Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 3:12, gives us this prayer: "May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all." In 1 Corinthians 13:13 he instructs us that: "faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
Putting these ideas into practice in the workplace can be a real challenge. Love is not something that can easily (if at all!) be tied in to the 'numbers.' So we have to constantly be on the lookout for opportunities to bring compassion into the workplace. It can be something as simple as opening a door for someone when their arms are loaded, or comforting a fellow worker in a time of distress, or (as a manager) letting someone leave a little early to make an appointment or catch their children's after school activity. If you consider things in that light, the possibilities are nearly endless.
So our challenge as we go forth into the marketplace is to be a light shining in the darkness, to increase and abound in love for all, and make an effort to find ways to bring compassion to work. If all of us did that, think about the transformation that could take place!
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