Self-Compassion Research in Organizations: Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Outcomes
Self-compassion research is gaining ground in the organizational context. In a recent review article Dodson and Heng (2022) give us a lay of the land. In this review summary, we’ll look at the results to date on the effects of self-compassion on the individual within themselves (intrapersonal outcomes) and the results of how self-compassion is shown to affect others (interpersonal outcomes).
When it comes to mental and physical health in the organizational context, numerous studies confirm self-compassion to be associated with lower levels of burnout (Beaumont et al., 2016; Delaney, 2018; Duarte & Pinto-Gouveia, 2016; Gerber & Anaki, 2021; Gracia-Gracia & Oliván-Blázquez, 2017; Hashem & Zeinoun, 2020; Montero-Marin et al., 2016; Prudenzi et al., 2021; Schabram & Heng, 2022). For example Schabram and Heng, (2022) surveyed 130 nurses over a period of 3 years and found self-compassion to be associated with lower levels of exhaustion and Gerber and Anaki (2021) studied 109 professional caregivers working in a hospital’s intensive care and rehabilitative units and found self-compassion to be associated with reduced levels of burnout.
Studies have also found a significant negative relationship between self-compassion and depressive symptoms (Ghorbani et al., 2018; Kotera et al., 2019; 2021) and between self-compassion and stress (van der Meulen et al., 2021). Kaurin et al. (2018) found that self-compassion reduces the likelihood of negative thoughts leading to depressive feelings for workers exposed to traumatic events. Other studies have found a positive relationship between self-compassion and sleep quality (Kemper et al., 2015; Vaillancourt & Wasylkiw, 2019) and between self-compassion and health behavior change (Horan & Taylor, 2018).
Self-compassion has also been shown to improve resilience (Delaney, 2018; Franco & Christie, 2021; Kemper et al., 2015; Lewis & Ebbeck, 2014). Lewis and Ebbeck (2014), showed that self-compassionate workers were better able to draw upon their knowledge and resources when facing difficult decisions. Studies also link self-compassion with increased job satisfaction (Abaci & Arda, 2013; Voci et al., 2016) and job engagement (Babenko et al., 2019).
Research shows a strong negative relationship between self-compassion and compassion fatigue (Delaney, 2018; Duarte & Pinto-Gouveia, 2016, 2017). Please note that although many researchers still refer to this term as compassion fatigue, in line with suggestions by Matthieu Ricard and Tania Singer (Klimecki & Singer, 2012), in the context of Mindful Self-Compassion training, we refer to this term as empathy fatigue rather than compassion fatigue. Empathy is defined as “an accurate understanding of the [other’s] world as seen from the inside” (Rogers, 1961), whereas compassion is the ability to empathize, with the addition of warmth and kindness. If we just feel the suffering of others without having the emotional resources to hold it, we will fight against it and become fatigued.
Research also shows a positive relationship between self-compassion and compassion satisfaction, defined as the emotional reward of caring for others in a work capacity (Alkema et al., 2008; Duarte & Pinto-Gouveia, 2017; Hotchkiss, 2018). Furthermore, Henshall et al. (2018) found self-compassion to be positively related to compassion at work and Lefebvre et al. (2020) found that self-compassion increased group- and individual-level innovation by increasing a sense of feeling safe in relationships with team members.
When it comes to self-compassion and leadership, Lanaj et al. (2021) found that self-compassionate leaders helped others more with both task-related and personal problems, and that they in turn were perceived as more competent and civil. Furthermore, Waldron and Ebbeck (2015) found that supervisors who self-reported higher self-compassion were rated as more effective leaders by their followers. Anjum et al. (2020) also studied how self-compassion influences interactions with co-workers and found that individuals with high levels of self-compassion experience less emotional exhaustion after negative interactions with coworkers.
To learn more about self-compassion or to attend an upcoming In-Person or Live Online Mindful Self-Compassion course, visit https://centerformsc.org/lomsc.
Abaci, R., & Arda, D. (2013). Relationship between self-compassion and job satisfaction in white collar workers. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 106, 2241–2247. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2013. 12.255
Anjum, M. A., Liang, D., Durrani, D. K., & Parvez, A. (2020). Workplace mistreatment and emotional exhaustion: The interaction effects of self-compassion. Current Psychology, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1007/ s12144-020-00673-9
Babenko, O., Mosewich, A. D., Lee, A., & Koppula, S. (2019). Association of physicians’ self-compassion with work engagement, exhaustion, and professional life satisfaction. Medical Science, 7(29), 1–8. https://doi. org/10.3390/medsci7020029
Beaumont, E., Irons, C., Rayner, G., & Dagnall, N. (2016). Does compassion-focused therapy training for health care educators and providers increase self-compassion and reduce self-persecution and self-criticism? Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, 36(1), 4–10. https://doi.org/10.1097/CEH. 0000000000000023
Delaney, M. C. (2018). Caring for the caregivers: Evaluation of the effect of an eight-week pilot mindful self-compassion (MSC) training program on nurses’ compassion fatigue and resilience. PLoS ONE, 13(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0207261
Dodson, S. J., & Heng, Y. T. (2022). Self-compassion in organizations: A review and future research agenda. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 43(2), 168-196. https://doi.org/10.1002/job.2556
Duarte, J., & Pinto-Gouveia, J. (2016). Effectiveness of a mindfulness-based intervention on oncology nurses’ burnout and compassion fatigue symptoms: A non-randomized study. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 64, 98–107. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2016.10.002
Duarte, J., & Pinto-Gouveia, J. (2017). The role of psychological factors in oncology nurses’ burnout and compassion fatigue symptoms. European Journal of Oncology Nursing, 28, 114–121. https://doi.org/ 10.1016/j.ejon.2017.04.002
Franco, P. L., & Christie, L. M. (2021). Effectiveness of a one day self-compassion training for pediatric nurses’ resilience. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 61, 109–114. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pedn.2021.03.020
Gerber, Z., & Anaki, D. (2021). The role of self-compassion, concern for others, and basic psychological needs in the reduction of caregiving burnout. Mindfulness, 12(3), 741–750. https://doi.org/10.1007/ s12671-020-01540-1
Ghorbani, N., Pourhosein, R., & Ghobad, S. A. (2018). Self-compassion, mental health and work ethics: Mediating role of self-compassion in the correlation between work stress and mental health. World Family Medicine Journal/Middle East Journal of Family Medicine, 16(1), 113–120. https://doi.org/10.5742/MEWFM.2018.93209
Gracia-Gracia, P., & Oliván-Blázquez, B. (2017). Burnout and mindfulness self-compassion in nurses of intensive care units: Cross-sectional study. Holistic Nursing Practice, 31(4), 225–233. https://doi.org/10. 1097/HNP.0000000000000215
Hashem, Z., & Zeinoun, P. (2020). Self-compassion explains less burnout among healthcare professionals. Mindfulness, 11(11), 2542–2551. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-020-01469-5
Henshall, L. E., Alexander, T., Molyneux, P., Gardiner, E., & McLellan, A. (2018). The relationship between perceived organisational threat and compassion for others: Implications for the NHS. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 25(2), 231–249. https://doi.org/10.1002/ cpp.2157
Horan, K. A., & Taylor, M. B. (2018). Mindfulness and self-compassion as tools in health behavior change: An evaluation of a workplace intervention pilot study. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 8, 8–16. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcbs.2018.02.003
Hotchkiss, J. T. (2018). Mindful self-care and secondary traumatic stress mediate a relationship between compassion satisfaction and burnout risk among hospice care professionals. American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Medicine, 35(8), 1099–1108. https://doi.org/10.1177/ 1049909118756657
Kaurin, A., Schönfelder, S., & Wessa, M. (2018). Self-compassion buffers the link between self-criticism and depression in trauma-exposed fire fighters. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 65(4), 453–462. https://doi. org/10.1037/cou0000275
Kemper, K. J., Mo, X., & Khayat, R. (2015). Are mindfulness and self compassion associated with sleep and resilience in health professionals? The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 21(8), 496–503. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2014.0281
Klimecki, O., & Singer, T. (2012). Empathic distress fatigue rather than compassion fatigue? Integrating findings from empathy research in psychology and social neuroscience. Pathological altruism, 368-383. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199738571.001.0001
Kotera, Y., Green, P., & Sheffield, D. (2019). Mental health shame of UK construction workers: Relationship with masculinity, work motivation, and self-compassion. Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 35(2), 135–143. https://doi.org/10.5093/jwop2019a15
Kotera, Y., Ozaki, A., Miyatake, H., Tsunetoshi, C., Nishikawa, Y., & Tanimoto, T. (2021). Mental health of medical workers in Japan during COVID-19: Relationships with loneliness, hope and self-compassion. Current Psychology, 40(12), 6271-6274. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-021-01514-z
Lanaj, K., Jennings, R. E., Ashford, S. J., & Krishnan, S. (2021). When leader self-care begets other care: Leader role self-compassion and helping at work. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/apl0000957
Lefebvre, J. I., Montani, F., Courcy, F., & Dagenais‐Desmarais, V. (2021). Self‐compassion at work: A key for enhancing well‐being and innovation through social safeness at multiple levels. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences/Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l’Administration, 38(4), 398-413. https://doi.org/10.1002/cjas.1599
Lewis, A. B., & Ebbeck, V. (2014). Mindful and self-compassionate leadership development: Preliminary discussions with wildland fire managers. Journal of Forestry, 112(2), 230–236. https://doi.org/10.5849/jof.12-107
van der Meulen, R. T., Valentin, S., Bögels, S. M., & de Bruin, E. I. (2021). Mindfulness and self-compassion as mediators of the Mindful2Work training on perceived stress and chronic fatigue. Mindfulness, 12(4), 936–946. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-020-01557-6
Montero-Marin, J., Zubiaga, F., Cereceda, M., Piva Demarzo, M. M., Trenc, P., & Garcia-Campayo, J. (2016). Burnout subtypes and absence of self-compassion in primary healthcare professionals: A cross sectional study. PLoS ONE, 11(6), e0157499. https://doi.org/10.1371/ journal.pone.0157499
Prudenzi, A., Graham, C. D., Flaxman, P. E., & O’Connor, D. B. (2021). Wellbeing, burnout, and safe practice among healthcare professionals: Predictive influences of mindfulness, values, and self-compassion. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 0(0), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1080/ 13548506.2021.1898651
Schabram, K., & Heng, Y. T. (2022). How other-and self-compassion reduce burnout through resource replenishment. Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 65, No. 2, 453–478. https://doi.org/10.5465/amj.2019.0493
Vaillancourt, E. S., & Wasylkiw, L. (2019). The intermediary role of burn out in the relationship between self-compassion and job satisfaction among nurses. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research, 52(4), 246–254. https://doi.org/10.1177/0844562119846274
Voci, A., Veneziani, C. A., & Bernardi, S. (2016). Dispositional mindfulness and self-compassion as predictors of work-related well-being. Psicologia Sociale, 11(1), 69–88. https://doi.org/10.1482/82881
Waldron, A. L., & Ebbeck, V. (2015). The relationship of mindfulness and self-compassion to desired wildland fire leadership. International Journal of Wildland Fire, 24(2), 201–211. https://doi.org/10.1071/WF13212