Dutton

Awakening Compassion in the Workplace with Jane Dutton and Monica Worline

by Scott Barry Kaufman, July 19, 2017

Today I’m really excited to have Monica Worline and Jane Dutton on the podcast, co-authors of the new book Awakening Compassion at Work: the Quiet Power That Elevates People and Organizations.

Monica Worline, Ph.D., is founder and CEO of EnlivenWork. She is also a research scientist at Stanford University Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and executive director of Compassion Lab. Jane Dutton, Ph.D., 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’s also a founding member of Compassion Lab.

A central thread in their work is that business has become dehumanized and impersonal. “One of the things that we’re seeing as technology takes over more of our work spaces is there’s an expectation that people are always available and always on, but that is driving out some of the human connection of work. ” Increased busyness, workplace pressures and the distractions of technology increase our attentional load and handicap us from being able to notice the need for acts of compassion. The two define compassion in a way that is distinct from most psychologists.

That is, their definition is a 4-step process:

  • Noticing
  • Interpreting (Making sense of human suffering)
  • Feeling
  • Acting (Responding to human suffering)

In our conversation we unpack what each of these stages entails as well as addressing male vs. female values in the workplace, the role of the “toxin handler” in the ecosystem, why goal-oriented people should consider working on the culture of compassion at work, how to tackle the short term vs. long term horizon challenges of business when building compassionate cultures, and how organizations have become obstacles to compassion at work.

We can only alleviate what we pay attention to.  The demanding culture of work organizations can drive out our capacity to notice the human state of other people. Through their book and speaking, Dutton and Worline hope to empower change agents in a host of settings.

We hope that you leave this episode with a newfound sense of the importance of compassion and with multiple languages to convince others in your organizations to enforce and devote resources to it. Jane and Monica also bring a variety of examples that really crystallize these ideas. It was an honor to speak with these two, and we hope you enjoy the podcast!

Related Links

Awakening Compassion at Work

Paper on the 8 different characteristics often referred to as “empathy” (mentioned)

[Resource] Work of Paul Gilbert on the compassionate mind (fear of compassion scale) (mentioned)

[Book] Toxic Emotions at Work Peter Frost (mentioned)


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