The Cure for the Ailing Workplace

Jan. 5, 2011
Compassionate communication within an office can help prevent workplace burnout and promote healthier work environments.

Sarah Tracy, Ph.D., director of the Project for Wellness-Work Life at Arizona State University, provides managers with some tips for how they can use compassionate communication to enhance the workplace.

According to Tracy, three components – recognizing, relating and responding – are involved when communicating compassion:

Recognizing refers to the process of noticing and understanding details about another person in order to act appropriately towards them. This includes observing nonverbal cues, listening to what the others have to say and opening oneself up to feedback. Managers need to ensure that employees regularly are interacting with each other and are aware of nonverbal clues about possible suffering.

Relating occurs when people identify, feel for and connect with another person. Relating is fostered when employees are encouraged and rewarded to find connections with each other. This also can decrease the “us versus them” attitude they may have with peers and clients.

Responding is when employees engage in communication or behaviors that focus on another person’s suffering or distress. This can be as simple as acknowledging the presence of someone waiting in line or as direct as providing praise as a show of support. The act of responding has the potential to greatly improve unsavory workplace situations.

Positive interactions have been shown to help decrease stress. Teaching compassion-related skills like recognizing, relating and responding can help create healthy and successful work environments.

“Workplace stress, bullying and burnout are important issues that occur in many different forms throughout the workplace. They can lead to dissatisfaction and high rates of turnover among employees,” explained Tracy. “Positive communication including energy, vitality, affection and compassion can help improve employee relations at work.”

About the Author

Laura Walter

Laura Walter was formerly senior editor of EHS Today. She is a subject matter expert in EHS compliance and government issues and has covered a variety of topics relating to occupational safety and health. Her writing has earned awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), the Trade Association Business Publications International (TABPI) and APEX Awards for Publication Excellence. Her debut novel, Body of Stars (Dutton) was published in 2021.

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