A trainee pulls me aside, and I’m not sure about the reason… maybe it’s something we covered in a class?
The trainee starts crying. She tells me that her landlord is asking their family to vacate their apartment, and an eviction notice has been nailed to the door. They tried unsuccessfully to talk it out with the landlord. They decided to take it to court, but while the proceedings were in progress, they suddenly found their belongings at the side of the road. The family wasn’t sure what to do, how to get legal help, where to stay, had no family around to help, and so on.
I felt horrible for what she was going through.
The trainee didn’t want to lose her job, but she was torn between her new job and taking care of her family. She wasn’t sure what to do. I listened and told her that I would talk to the rest of the leadership team to see what we could do to help.
We made exceptions for her to spend time away as long as she could make up the time missed during the workweek. I told her that I would do my best to catch her up on what she missed.
I asked our leadership team for information about legal assistance programs that could assist the trainee. I researched other resources she could use until she found a place to stay since both she and her boyfriend were working.
Fast forward three years, she still works with us today and continues to do her best with learning new call types and assisting wherever necessary, such as training new-hires, staying back to help with calls, to name a few.
In another scenario, I recall an agent stating that he didn’t have any money to catch the bus home after work. He said that he was having financial issues since he was taking care of a family member. I went into my wallet, pulled out $10, and then sent over information about our employee assistance program (EAP). I also checked in regularly with the agent to find out how things were going and provide encouragement whenever necessary.
In the above situations, I provided what help I could without expecting anything in return—and I didn’t let the agents feel that they had to reciprocate in any way. I understand that service level agreements need to be met, but we are still human beings. If our agents’ basic needs—such as food, shelter, security—are not fulfilled, how can they be expected to work productively? (See Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.)
What Is Compassionate Leadership?
A Harvard Business Review article stated, “Compassion has become increasingly recognized as a foundational aspect of leadership. One study from 2012 found that compassionate leaders appear stronger and have more engaged followers. Other studies have found that organizations with more compassionate leaders have better collaboration, lower turnover, and employees who are more trusting, more connected to each other, and more committed to the company.”
The following are a few benefits outlined by author Meysam Poorkavoos in the research paper, Compassionate Leadership: What Is It and Why Do Organizations Need More of It?:
- Experiencing compassion at work connects co-workers psychologically and results in a stronger bond between them.
- Those who experience compassionate leadership at work are more likely to report effective commitment to their organization and talk about it positively.
- Supervisors who perceive that their organization values their well-being are more likely to show supportive behavior toward the people they manage.
- Compassion breeds compassion. Individuals who provide compassion or those on the receiving end are not the only ones that benefit. Those who receive compassion are subsequently better able to direct their support and caregiving to others, which is critically important in caregiving organizations. Working in a compassionate caregiving organization reduces the chance of compassion fatigue and burnout in caregivers. It provides them with the much-needed emotional resources needed to care for their clients.
Putting Theory into Practice
How do you separate what’s going on with your personal and work life? The following are a few tips I’ve used to assist my team members:
- Talk to the team member, check in to see how they are doing. I recall an agent going through a challenging diagnosis. She came close to quitting a few times because she felt overwhelmed with her emotions, appointments and medical procedures. Still, we talked more often and the company sent her a few items to cheer her up and let her know how much she was valued. She has been with us nearly two years now and continues to do an awesome job.
“Be kind for everyone is fighting a hard battle.” —IAN MACLAREN (AKA REV. JOHN WATSON)
- Provide local resources and your company’s EAP. Take the time to explain what each resource(s) can do. Even if they don’t use it, the fact that you did something still counts.
- Remove any preconceptions before you talk to a person. Starting and ending with this helps to remove any bias, thereby allowing you to connect and build a positive relationship.
- Ask how can I help? Do your best to find ways to assist. By taking this approach, I’ve added several resources to help team members based on the challenge at hand.
- Get your leadership team involved. They may know about more resources. Remember, two heads are better than one.
- Practice mindfulness meditation. A 10-minute meditation every day can help to modify the way you react to situations. There are many mobile apps that will guide you through the process or that play relaxing sounds or music. If that doesn’t work for you, search YouTube for something that does.
As a leader, I’ve had, and continue to have, the opportunity to impact my team members’ lives. It can be as simple as lending an ear to listen to their troubles or making schedule adjustments to take care of a pressing need. Whichever path you decide to take, make it positive and impactful.