Today, I had my last chemo. I’m in treatment for breast cancer. There is no where I’ve been where compassion is as much a part of the workplace as in a cancer infusion center.
In a cancer clinic, there is tremendous suffering: painful chemo that takes six hours to deliver; side effects like stomach and muscle spasms; severe radiation burns that postpone treatment.
In a cancer clinic, there is also tremendous compassion. Staff help patients pick out a wig, manage side effects with home remedies, and support them when treatments become unbearable. If you are diagnosed with something unimaginable and find yourself with a team that doesn’t show compassion, fire them. In this type of workplace, compassion is a commodity that makes or breaks a business. My cancer team, well, they’re a beautiful model of how a workplace should be.
So, the question is, how do you develop an organization that balances strategy with compassion? Hire employees with compassion.
I work for a financial institution where employees aren’t thought of as having a heart for more than the business needs. I have the privilege to work with some of the most compassionate, financially-minded business people anywhere. We hire them because they have that rare combination of a missional heart and a sound financial business mind. It’s a combination that works.
BALANCE BUSINESS NEEDS WITH COMPASSION
Consider job candidates with transferable skills who have experience in compassion fields. An accountant, auditor, human resource administrator, network analyst, many of these skill sets can work across industries. Look for candidates who have worked in a service or nonprofit industry. They will bring the hard skills and they may also bring a service heart.
USE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS THAT REVEAL HEART
Add a compassion question into your interviews:
• Tell me about a time when you used compassion to address a workplace challenge?
• Give me an example of a time you helped a coworker whose work was suffering.
• Tell me about a time you have helped someone without being asked.
• Tell me about a time when you had to deliver difficult news.
PLACE CANDIDATES IN REAL-LIFE SCENARIOS
Use an interview activity that reveals not only technical skills, but also reflects a candidate’s level of compassion. Add a scenario like this into your process:
• Create a one-page performance evaluation of Joseph, including recommended next steps:
Joseph, a high-performer, has been coming in late 3 or more days a week for the last two months. He has been late turning in two reports needed for an annual audit. He no longer wears a suit and tie, but instead wears wrinkled polos and khakis. Staff have heard that he may be caring for his dad who has Alzheimer’s disease.
Compassion doesn’t have to be limited to healthcare organizations, it could be the commodity to make or break your business. When you hire the right people and they see suffering, compassionate ideas follow and can be perfectly balanced with strategy.
Dr. Amy Smith is an organizational development and strategy practitioner with over 20 years’ experience and has recently published her first book, Compassion@Work. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.