Realize. Relate. Relieve. On Compassion in Organizations

Two weeks ago, I gave my second TEDx talk on compassion in organizations. If you are interested in the (sort of) transcript of my talk, please visit this post. The purpose of this one is just to share some photos and to congratulate the fabulous organizing team of TEDxEBS 2016. The photos were shot by Erfan Fazloomi.

Positive Psychology News Digest on Mappalicious | No. 46/2016

My favorite pieces covering Positive Psychology and adjacent from (roughly) the last seven days.

New York Magazine: Yes, Quitting Facebook May Make You Happier by Drake Baer


Psychology Today: Can You Be Vulnerable at Work? by Megan Dalla-Camina


Center for Positive Organizations: For a better workplace, make first moments matter feat. Jane Dutton


Harvard Business Review: If You Can’t Empathize with Your Employees, You’d Better Learn To by Annie McKee


Guardian: The pursuit of happiness: could a ‘happy city index’ end Bristol’s blues? by Arit Niranjan


The Positive Organization: Repairing Relationships at Work by Robert Quinn


New York Times: How Exercise Might Keep Depression at Bay by Gretchen Reynolds


Greater Good Science Center: How the Growth Mindset Can Increase Cooperation by Alex Shashkevich


Psychology Today: 7 Ways to Be Awe-Inspired in Everyday Life by Andy Tix


Psychology Today: Neuroscience Research Shows How Mood Impacts Perception by Susan Krauss Whitbourne

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Positive Psychology News Digest on Mappalicious | No. 37/2016

My favorite pieces covering Positive Psychology and adjacent from (roughly) the last seven days.

Harvard Business Review: The More You Energize Your Coworkers, the Better Everyone Performs by Wayne Baker


Fast Company: 7 Science-Backed Steps To Take Before Quitting A Job That’s Burning You Out by Rachel Grumman Bender


Wall Street Journal: The More Cash People Have, the Happier They Are by Andrew Blackman


ERE Media: The Business Benefits Of Happy Employees by Karlyn Borysenko


Wall Street Journal: Get Your Children Good and Dirty by Brett Finlay & Marie-Claire Arrieta


New York Times: The Difference Between Rationality and Intelligence by David Hambrick & Alexander Burgoyne


Greater Good Science Center: Who Is Attracted to Inspiring Media? by Sophie Janicke


New York Times: Can You Have a Good Life if You Don’t Have a Good Job? by Michael Lind


Guardian: Could bad buildings damage your mental health? by Emily Reynolds


New York Times: Can Teenage Defiance Be Manipulated for Good? by Amanda Ripley


Fast Company: 7 Surprising Facts About Creativity, According To Science by John Paul Titlow


Huffington Post: Three ways to work better together by Chris White


Heleo: Mastering the Art of Pre-suasion with Robert Cialdini, no author

Mappalicious - Positive Psychology news Digest

Feedback? You´re doing fine! Just keep on going…

A good friend of mine, Vivian Wagner, has founded a non-profit organization called 1World Social Capital Program (1WSCP). 1WSCP offers mentoring to aspiring female professionals and students, helping them to grow their social capital with 12 highly regarded and successful mentors who are doing amazing work to break the glass ceiling for women all around the world.

1WSCP regularly posts short videos of leaders who share important learning experiences from the careers. For my video, Vivian asked me to specifically think about how we can elevate and uplift the people around us.

I share a story that took place while still studying Positive Psychology at Penn. The video contains a shout-out to Professor Jane Dutton from the Center for Positive Organizations who facilitated our learning experience that day. An older written account of that experience can be found here.

Share and enjoy!

Welcome to the Center for Positive Organizations

CPO_LogoSo, I’m sharing a commercial video here. Yes, that’s not the usual content on Mappalicious.

It’s just that so many of my academic heroes are gathered in this video (and thus, at the CPO, e.g. Robert Quinn, Jane Dutton, and Kim Cameron) that I’m actually eager to share it. The CPO is a fabulous place to learn. I know this ever since taking part in their Positive Business Conference in May.

Please also check out their fabulous website. They host a wide array of Positive Psychology resources, e.g., this extensive list of research papers on Positive Organizational Science.

Compassion and Business: How does that go together?

The word compassion sounds “soft”. It invokes images of praying Buddhist monks, nurses taking care of the feeble, or a priest administering the last rites to a dying person. What surely doesn´t come to mind is the picture of a corporate boardroom, right? But why?

When we walk into to the office in the morning and someone asks us “How are you?” we´re supposed to say something along the lines of: “Fine! How about you?” It´s part of the language game in the corporate world. We know this. At the same time, we all know that quite often, people are presenting a white lie at this point. We know this very well precisely because we do the same every once in a while. We say “I´m fine” even when things clearly aren´t fine at all.

Life can be a bitch. Our loved ones become sick or pass away. We fight with our spouses, our children, our parents, our neighbors. There are bills to pay and sometimes the end of the month is still too far away. Hell, the Warriors lose to the Cavs after a 3:1 lead in the NBA finals. It´s tough.

This emotional load – we bring it into the office, no matter if we admit it or if we decide to cover up. Most people indeed choose to cover up – as somehow, someone decided a hundred years ago that businesses ought to be rational places, spaces where emotions don´t belong or even disrupt normal functioning (whatever that is…).

The problem is: It´s just not possible. People cannot shut down their emotions at discretion. At least not for longer periods of time – and certainly not without paying a price.

There is always pain in the room.

This sentence was coined by the late management professor Peter Frost, one of the pioneers studying and advocating compassion in business settings. It´s a quite powerful proposition, even though (Or maybe: because?) it states something very obvious. Shit happens to the best of us. We suffer – and sometimes, it takes us a long time to cope. We feel pain and sorrow and those feelings don’t bother to ask us if we are currently at work or at home.

So, how should managers and co-workers react? The common rules of business tell us to ignore or downplay the issue but in most cases, that´s not what really helps.

Not showing our suffering or downplaying the suffering of our colleagues is a perfect example of what Finnish philosopher Esa Saarinen calls a system of holding back in return and advance. We don’t openly display our suffering because we expect from prior interactions that it will not be acted upon appropriately. Meanwhile, the others see no need to act compassionately as everything seems to be OK. Ad infinitum. And the longer this “non-reciprocity circle” is in place, the harder it becomes for an individual to make a first move in order to interrupt the chain of neglect.

Another way would be to act compassionately: To notice the negative feelings of our co-workers, to feel empathetic concern, and to act accordingly. Compassion does not equal to fully experiencing the same feelings as the person we´re compassionate to.

Put in a straight-forward way…

…being compassionate means to be willing to imagine how it would feel like to walk some miles in another person´s shoes – and then, upon recognizing this would probably be hurtful, trying to appropriately mitigate that pain or suffering.

That´s it. It´s not a mystic thing – and we don´t have to mediate in a cave for 20 years before we´re able to pull off that stunt.

We know how to be compassionate even before we can ride a bike. Small children act compassionately by nature. When they see another child crying, they instinctively show signs of distress – and then they try to help with their restricted means, e.g., by caressing their counterpart or sharing a toy.

But somehow, this get´s lost as we get our high school diplomas, university degrees – and then move on to become business people. Which is a pity, because businesses create a lot of pain themselves – it´s not all from our private lives. People suffer because they don’t get that promotion, because their buddies get laid off, or just because co-workers, or even worse, bosses behave in outright toxic ways. Again, we all know this to some degree.

Here´s the point: Science shows over and over again that by carelessly ignoring these emotional dynamics, businesses are hurting the bottom line. If you want to know how, I´d like to point you towards this superb review article written by science rock star Jane Dutton of University of Michigan´s Center for Positive Organizations and some colleagues (that´s also where I “stole” the graphic from):

Dutton, J. E., Workman, K. M., & Hardin, A. E. (2014). Compassion at Work. Annual Reviews of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 1(1), 277-304.

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Passion. Purpose. Performance. Positive Business Conference (Day 1)

I’m absolutely thrilled to be at the University of Michigan, attending this year’s Positive Business Conference at Ross School of Business.This post is my personal summary of the conference’s first day, brought to you via some of the tweets I’ve put out there…

Prof. Vic Strecher shared some really intriguing upsides of having a strong purpose in life. More importantly, you should check out his fabulous app JOOL.

Prof. Jane Dutton had me change my mind on using the term rockstar only in contexts that involve electric guitars. She shared with us her Flourishing Triangle framework of organizational effectiveness.

I was equally thrilled to be able to learn directly from Prof. Alex Edmans, whose work on the financial impact of treating employees exceptionally well has been covered extensively on Mappalicious.

Prof. Joe Arvai shared some incredible research on how to help consumers make more ethical buying decisions. E.g., why is that we can consciously choose from what part of the world our coffee comes from (and how it was cultivated) – but not with regard to our gasoline? And what if we could

After lunch, I was thrilled to have the opportunity of attending a workshop led by Prof. Robert Quinn whose blog posts I share frequently via my Positive Psychology News Digests.

Once more it became clear to me that we do not really understand “a thing” (even if we’ve heard about it a lot of times) until somebody explains it to us in the exactly right words at the right time.

When you’re in the right space, the smartest “person” in the room is the room itself.

Jim Miller, VP at Google, shared insights on the special culture that drives the incredible success of the company.

Of course, there were more sessions, and more speakers, and an abundance of inspiring conversations while having delicious food – but I cannot cover it all here.

Yet, one last thing I found out is this:

Share and enjoy!

Positive Business Conference