How important is compassion in a company?

Apr 2, 2012, 6:05 PM | Updated: Apr 3, 2012, 6:47 am

Dalai LamaA few years ago 65,000 people filled the football stadium in Seattle to hear the Dalai Lama speak about compassion toward others. Now there’s a push to bring that good karma to local corporations.

Organizers of the Dalai Lama’s visit are expanding with a week-long effort in Seattle to help businesses develop cultures of compassion, at their request.

“Business people have looked into the abyss of what happens when selfishness is allowed to run riot and when you’re simply leeching from the community instead of putting something back,” says author Karen Armstrong, speaking on behalf of the Compassionate Action Network. “If we don’t behave in a more compassionate way treating all people as we would want to be treated, we’re not going to have a viable, sustainable world.”

Compassion isn’t just a matter of “feeling good so we all have a nice warm glow,” she says, real compassion is essential for a company’s survival in a global community.

The Seattle Times is running a series of reports that lead readers to believe doesn’t do much for the community. While Microsoft gave $4 million to United Way of King County and Boeing donated $3.1 million. The Times points out Amazon gave nothing, while it continues to “wring big discounts from publishers.”

Armstrong thinks we should refrain from judging Amazon from the outside, but many companies such as Google have found if they treat their employees more compassionately and give more back to the community, “the whole ethos” of the business changes for the better.

Starbucks says that has been its experience too. Howard Behar, the coffee company’s former international president says Starbucks doesn’t look at its people as “assets” but rather considers them human beings first. Behar, who is also a part of the events in Seattle this week, says he coached hundreds of leaders at every level in the company preaching the importance of “people over profits.”

Compassion – caring for another person’s situation and being empathetic with what they’re going through – doesn’t seem difficult. Armstrong believes compassion is intrinsic in all human beings, but it’s also something that’s easy to forget at work.

“We define ourselves against other people,” she says. “Sometimes when I talk about compassion I see people looking mutinous, thinking, ‘Can’t I ever sound off against my dreadful boss or a country where we’re at war?’ Being angry gives us a buzz like the first drink of the evening where you get a sort of high off it. This is an addiction and it’s dangerous.”

Our problem, she says, is that our brains are still wired to be competitive.

“Without this drive to get food and beat others to get food our species wouldn’t survive, so we need this survival mechanism. But this brain mechanism developed in a time of scarcity when there really wasn’t enough to go around, only the fittest survived,” says Armstrong. ” We haven’t figured out how to deal with this drive in an environment of plenty.”


Mary Altaffer/AP photo from the Dalai Lama’s April 2008 visit to Seattle

Related: Compassion Action Network free business event in Seattle

The News Chick Blog

The wife of Seattle attorney Danford Grant moved his car away from one of the alleged crime scenes ...
No Author

Equal justice for Seattle lawyer accused of several rapes?

Has accused serial rapist Danford Grant gotten preferential treatment because both he and his wife are Seattle attorneys?
10 years ago
The Seattle-based I Can Has Cheezburger network now includes 60 humor sites. Many of their 90 emplo...
No Author

Seattle humor network, built with funny cat pictures, becomes a reality TV show

A small Internet empire with a funny name has billions of page views on its network of 60 humor websites based in Seattle. Now, I Can Has Cheezburger has a reality TV show too.
10 years ago
President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney spent a combined $30.33 every second this election cycle. Wa...
No Author

Democracy and dollar signs – 2012 campaign spending

Washington initiative campaigns spent $34 million trying to win your vote, while President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney spent a combined $30.33 every second this election cycle.
10 years ago
Chef Tom Douglas says Seattle’s restaurants are ‘a little homemade’ compared with...
No Author

Chef Tom Douglas says ‘Seattle is a funny restaurant town’

Chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas, with 13 Seattle restaurants and more on the way, says Seattle is a "funny restaurant town."
10 years ago
Investigation continues into why a commander of the Bremerton-based Stennis carrier group was remov...
No Author

New ‘crazy’ conspiracy theory on Stennis Rear Admiral

The Pentagon shoots down theories about why the commander of the USS Stennis Carrier Group was removed from duty and sent back to the homeport in Bremerton.
10 years ago
Seattle photographer Paul Souders captures an adult polar bear up close in Hudson Bay in Churchill,...
No Author

Seattle photographer comes face to face with a polar bear

A wildlife photographer, who lives in Ballard, has taken thousands of stunning shots. None put him on "a razor's edge" more than a series of photos swimming with a polar bear.
10 years ago

Sponsored Articles


Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
How important is compassion in a company?