Does Compassion Belong In The Workplace?


All relationships are gloriously messy. Because all humans are irresistibly paradoxical. Though most of us prefer to make decisions based on “OUGHT” instead of “IS”. Therefore, all of us suffer, at some point, some more, some less. 

Yet, companies (meaning the people making up what we call companies) insist, tacitly of course, that suffering ought to be a private matter, wanting only the glory and not the messiness. Companies expect that our families and friends ought to be those who deal with the ickiness of our suffering, so that we may show up at work, impeccably professional. Because work is after all, ALL about “producing value”, and suffering distracts from the pursuit of this holy grail, or so we’ve been taught to believe. So obligingly, we show up at work, day after day, a self-edited “half-human”.

But, what if it is precisely this very messiness, these very paradoxes, the “IS-ness” of suffering, that is the gateway to abiding belonging, boundless creativity and enduring purpose? And compassion being the key that unlocks these gates?

Contrary to the sentiment that compassion is a sign of weakness, compassion demands courageous. Neither is compassion a fad, being the golden thread that weaves through all ancient holy texts. But the million-dollar question remains, “does compassion belong in the workplace?” Well, that depends on whether your definition of a life well-lived includes work; whether you believe that numbers come before the human, or the other way round; and fundamentally, whether you believe that everyone wakes up every morning wondering how to make other people’s life miserable, or intending to be our best.

By introducing you a 5-step framework of how to be compassionate at work, I hope to persuade you to, at the very least, flirt with the possibility that compassion may yet be the most radical form of ancient technology that unleashes the promise dormant within each of us. 


Roslina Chai (蔡姗珊)

Roslina Chai (蔡姗珊) – Lawyer by training, Creative at heart, Leader by circumstance. Roslina is quintessentially a seeker of essence. With a keen intuition to draw out and articulate the essence of a person and situation, she works with senior leadership teams on innovation, inclusion and communication as a consultant, facilitator, mediator and executive coachWith a career spanning more than two decades, four continents and twelve industries, Roslina has seen too many moments where a person’s natural desire to be compassionate is being crushed by deadlines, performance expectations, fear of social exclusion etc. And it has taken more than four decades for her to finally find the courage to say, “I desire the simplest of human joy, which is to inflict no suffering unto my fellow human being.” Roslina believes that workplaces of today must participate in bringing about the change we wish to see in this world, if no other reason than the sheer fact that most of us spend more time (cumulatively) interacting with our colleagues than our families.

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