Can organisational work structures be re-directed to be more compassionate and caring and could it create tangible economic value?

Creating more caring organisations
Recently ethical implications of human resource management have intensified the focus on care perspectives in management and organisation studies. Appeals have also been made for the concept of organisational care to be grounded in philosophies of care rather than business theories.

Care perspectives see individuals, especially women, as primarily relational and view work as a means by which people can increase in self-esteem, self-develop and be fulfilled. The ethic of care has received attention in feminist ethics and is often socially construed as a feminine ethic. Although well developed in the caring professions there remains no model or definition of the care ethic in management literature with little care research undertaken. This paper develops the concept of the care ethic using Heidegger’s philosophy, namely, care is fundamental to human being. To show Heideggerian care, an individual notices, pays attention to another and responds in ways to empower and enable.

In a study which aimed to analyse women’s lived experience of career, the authors applied the philosophically grounded methodology hermeneutic phenomenology. Findings revealed the power of Heideggerian care, Sorge, as a key factor in creating meaning. From this, the authors propose that care has potential as a theoretical and philosophically based construct with strong practical implications. It provides a way of understanding the care ethic, lies at the heart of our being, and is essential to meaning in our relationships and undertakings. Crucially, it can provide reprieve from the existential angst that trademarks our being.

Margie J. Elley-Brown & Judith K. Pringle. 2021. Sorge, Heideggerian Ethic of Care: Creating More Caring Organizations.

Journal of Business Ethics, 168(1), 23–35.

Creating caring organisations
Human systems are often perceived as monolithic social structures in which individuals can only adapt and cope. Actually, social systems are both designed and maintained by individuals. The structure of a human system can be changed in deliberate ways when individuals take personal responsibility for the system and collaborate with one another.

Consulting psychology is a powerful vehicle for building and rebuilding organisational structures and cultures in ways that deliberately provide healthy and supportive social environments for members. One step in this change process is the definition of the desired social environment. A few elements that may be relevant in this context are reviewed.

Fuqua, Dale R & Newman, Jody L. 2002. Creating Caring Organizations.

Consulting Psychology Journal, 54 (2), 131-140.

Emergent organisational capacity for compassion
The authors’ model of emergent organisational capacity for compassion proposes that organisations can develop the capacity for compassion without formal direction. Relying on a framework from complexity science, the authors describe how the system conditions of agent diversity, interdependent roles, and social interactions enhance the likelihood of self-organising around an individual response to a pain trigger.

When agents then modify their roles to incorporate compassionate responding, their interactions amplify responses, changing the system, and a new order emerges: organisational capacity for compassion. In this new order the organisation’s structure, culture, routines, and scanning mechanisms incorporate compassionate responding and can influence future responses to pain triggers.

Laura T. Madden, Dennis Duchon, Timothy M. Madden & Donde Ashmos Plowman. 2012. Emergent Organizational Capacity for Compassion.

Academy of Management Review, 37(4), 689-708.

Empathy, connectedness and organisation
In this paper, the authors conceptually explore the role of empathy as a connectedness organising mechanism. The authors expand ideas underlying positive organisational scholarship and examine leading-edge studies from neuroscience and quantum physics that give support to the authors’ claims.

The perspective the authors propose has profound implications regarding how we organise and how we manage. First, the authors argue that empathy enhances connectedness through the unconscious sharing of neuro-pathways that dissolves the barriers between self and other. This sharing encourages the integration of affective and cognitive consciousness which facilitates the ability to find common ground for solution building. Second, empathy enhances connectedness through altruistic action. In giving to others, feelings of joy and harmony are activated. This in turn allows personal freedom to be enriched and transcendence from the rational ego-self is reduced to develop a more expansive, integrated and enlightened state underlying connectedness.

Finally, empathy enhances connectedness which results in sharing the quantum field of coherence where there is little separation between self and other. This means living beyond self-interest in a coherent world based upon interdependent wholeness rather than atomisation and separation. Empathy allows us to find that state of coherent connectedness.

Kathryn Pavlovich & Keiko Krahnke. 2012. Empathy, Connectedness and Organisation.

Journal of Business Ethics, 105 (1), 131-137.

Explaining compassion organising
We develop a theory to explain how individual compassion in response to human pain in organisations becomes socially coordinated through a process the authors call compassion organising.

The theory specifies five mechanisms, including contextual enabling of attention, emotion, and trust, agents improvising structures, and symbolic enrichment, that show how the social architecture of an organisation interacts with agency and emergent features to affect the extraction, generation, coordination, and calibration of resources. In doing so, the authors’ theory of compassion organising suggests that the same structures designed for the normal work of organisations can be redirected to a new purpose to respond to members’ pain.

The authors discuss the implications of the theory for compassion organising and for collective organising more generally.

Jane E. Dutton, Monica C. Worline, Peter J. Frost & Jacoba Lilius. 2006. Explaining Compassion Organizing.

Administrative Science Quarterly, 51 (1), 59-96.

Do LGBT workplace diversity policies create value for firms?
We show that the U.S. anti-discriminatory laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity (i.e. lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) identities) spur innovation, which ultimately leads to higher firm performance. The authors use the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) of 398 (1592 firm-year observations) U.S. firms between 2011 and 2014, and find a significantly positive relationship between CEI and firm innovation.

The authors also find that an interacting effect of CEI and firm innovation leads to higher firm performance. The authors use their understanding of Rawls’ Theory of Justice and stakeholder theory to show that firms with workplace diversity policies are likely to be more innovative and perform better than those without such policies. The results are robust to endogeneity, reverse causality and simultaneity issues. The results will trigger debate in similar markets around the globe on the economic benefits of LGBT workplace diversity policies for firms.

Mohammed Hossain, Muhammad Atif, Ammad Ahmed & Lokman Mia. 2020. Do LGBT Workplace Diversity Policies Create Value for Firms?

Journal of Business Ethics, 167(4), 775–791.