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  • Jason Downes

6/52: Compassion is a 2-way street



In October last year, I received a call from my step mum that changed my life. My Dad, who lives in Queensland and had been suffering from emphysema for 15 years, had been admitted to hospital and wasn't likely to recover. The next few hours were extremely stressful as my sister and I made our dash to Queensland, dealing with missed work commitments, purchasing flights and contacting the people that needed to know. Behind all of this, I was concerned that I'd be out of work for an unknown period, only weeks after I'd just started in a senior role within a small business. At the height of this stress, I received a call from my employer:

"You have our unconditional support. Take as long as you need and be with your family. We have everything covered back here in the office."

These were the words I needed to hear and with that one phone call, I was able to focus on my family at a time they needed me most. My sister and I were in Queensland for two weeks in total and Dad passed away peacefully on October 31st with his family by his side.


Why do I tell this personal story? Because I believe compassion goes both ways and we're typically treated as we treat others.


I've always been fortunate to receive great levels of care and compassion throughout my career. I think it's partly because of the organisations I've carefully aligned myself with but more importantly, because of my choice to be an active contributor to developing a compassionate workplace within these organisations.


In a Harvard Business Review article from 2015, Emma Seppälä and Kim Cameron outlined six characteristics of a compassionate workplace:


  • Caring for, being interested in, and maintaining responsibility for colleagues as friends.

  • Providing support for one another, including offering kindness and compassion when others are struggling.

  • Avoiding blame and forgiving mistakes.

  • Inspiring one another at work.

  • Emphasizing the meaningfulness of the work.

  • Treating one another with respect, gratitude, trust, and integrity.

I didn't expect anything from my Managing Director at our family's hour of need...but I'm extremely grateful for the compassion, support and flexibility I received, and I look forward to returning it in spades.


If you expect these things of your company and colleagues, are you also contributing to these ideals?

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