Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.
-Mark Twain

From Spirituality & Health Magazine, May/June 2004:

Small Acts of Compassion Pay Off at Work

You take time to listen when a co-worker loses a loved one. Or you run an errand for an office mate overwhelmed by a medical crisis. Maybe you offer a hug to a colleague having a bad day.

Far from being trivial, these little acts of compassion create an upward spiral that can improve the way people see themselves and the company, increase job satisfaction, and reduce job-related stress. Such are the findings of a study conducted by the University of Michigan's Jacoba M. Lilius, Ph.D., and five colleagues.

The researchers collected 171 stories of compassion experienced or witnessed in the workplace from 158 employees of Fairview, a community hospital in a midsized urban area in the central United States. After categorizing the acts of compassion described in the stories, they constructed a survey to measure those acts along with workplace factors such as stress, well-being, and workers' commitment to the company. Then they administered the survey to 239 workers.

The researchers found "convincing evidence of the large effects of seemingly small interpersonal acts such as lending an ear, extending a hand, or being present to someone in pain." It seems that these actions serve as cues that workers intuitively use to understand the kind of place where they work and the kind of people they work with. Among the many benefits the study illuminates, acts of compassion:· Shape the way people feel about their co-workers. "I was diagnosed with cancer," wrote one respondent. "I did not realize that I work with so many caring, giving, wonderful people."· Let people know they don't have to check their emotions at the door when they come to work. "When I left the room with the doctor, my co-worker recognized that this was a difficult time, despite my ability to 'hold it together.' She put her arm around me and said, 'I'm so sorry. If there's anything I can do, please let me know.' With that, the flood of emotions that had been held inside to keep rational were released. We cried together. This was compassion!"· Deepen workplace relationships. "I feel these women are my sisters and the men my brothers; we look out for each other, always asking if you need something, what can I do to help?"· Create pride in the organization. After working with several departments in the hospital to provide a funeral for an indigent patient, one participant wrote, "I was so impressed by the love and compassion I saw demonstrated for a family of no reputation. I was proud to work at Fairview."

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