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Humanistic Management Journal

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 151–169 | Cite as

Exploring the Boundaries of Compassion Organizing

  • Michael Pirson
Original Research

Abstract

Management theory and practice are facing unprecedented challenges posed by the amount of suffering induced and caused by the recent financial crisis, increasing social inequity, the worldwide spread of terrorism, and the consequences of climate change (Hart 2005, p. 61; Prahalad 2005; Senge 2008). Spiritual figures such as the Dalai Lama and Pope Benedict XVI have repeatedly highlighted the central role of compassion to alleviate the pain caused by these crises. Drawing on ancient spiritual teaching about empathy and the more recent insights regarding the relevance of emotions (e.g. emotional intelligence), emotion-centric perspectives of management have been advocated more strongly in the very recent past (Brockner and Higgins Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 86(1):35-66 2001; Cooper and Sawaf 1996; Mayer et al. Annual Review of Psychology 59:507-536 2008). So far, however, compassion related concepts have played a marginal role within management research. Dutton et al.’s Administrative Science Quarterly 51(1):59-96(2006) seminal paper offers a much needed perspective as it allows to conceptualize compassion as an organizational focal point.

In this paper, I set out to examine boundaries to the general applicability of compassion organizing theory. Istart by examining the assumptions regarding the human capacity for compassion presented by Dutton et al. Administrative Science Quarterly 51(1):59-96(2006). I further develop a set of boundary conditions of individual level compassion capability, a precondition for compassion organizing. I then develop a typology of compassion capability proposing four archetypes of individual level compassion capability, and transpose the insights generated onto a typology of organizing modes. This typology allows distinguishing the various modes of compassion organizing, and helps identifying the structures and mechanisms that undermine compassion organizing. As such, Ihope to contribute to a better understanding of the potential for compassion organizing in theory and practice.

Keywords

Compassion Organizing Humanistic management 

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fordham UniversityBronxUSA

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