At this inflection point in history, compassion has to stand its ground

A recent opinion piece by Eileen Chadnick in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper caught my eye: Humanity, connection, and compassion – the keys to bringing staff back to the office successfully.  It reminded the reader of what we already know – that everyone, staff and supervisors, are burned out from the isolation and stress caused by working remotely during the pandemic and that there are reasons why people are reluctant to return to the office. The article argued for the need to focus on providing work environments that proactively encourage connectedness among employees (a friendly workplace) and prioritize compassion as an important ingredient of a successful office culture. In other words, people-centred leadership has never been more important.  Everyone needs to feel valued; everyone needs to feel that they are part of a work environment that makes them feel part of a team, of a community. Bottom line: if employees don’t feel that way, they’ll be happier working online in their basements, or worse, looking for another job.

You won’t be surprised to hear that I fully support that approach.  I was very lucky to have spent most of my work life feeling very much part of a community, where we were all contributing to something larger than ourselves. Feeling that you belong. That’s precisely what kept me motivated.

The question I have to ask is: why don’t we expect this approach of humanity, connectedness, and compassion from our political leaders?  We raise our kids to try to get along with everyone, to not exclude some kids or be mean to others – or at least that’s what we should be doing.  We certainly have every right to expect that kind of welcoming environment in the workplace – at least if we want to keep employees from seeking employment elsewhere these days.  Yet our political systems are set up to lob insults and “lies” at the other “side”.  Getting the vote and staying in power is the #1 priority, and working to make things better for the people they were elected to serve seems to come second, sometimes a very low second.

I know there is nothing new in this scenario, but these are unusual times.  The most unusual in our lifetime. We are witnessing an inflection point in history, or maybe it would be more appropriate to say multiple inflection points. These few year we’ve been living through – say from 2016 until … a few more years maybe – are going to consume more than one chapter in history books in the decades to come. Let’s think about just how many recent world events have turned our expectations upside down.

  • A global pandemic of unprecedented proportions shut down schools and workplaces for face-to-face learning and work around the world … for extraordinarily long periods of time. Inflection-COVID1
  • The pandemic disrupted travel and tourism for extended periods of time. It disrupted and in many case was the death knell for many small businesses (restaurants, storefront retail, etc.)
  • The pandemic shone a light on the inadequacy of hospital services in most places.
  • Widespread staff shortages. Coming out of the pandemic, there aren’t enough people to staff many businesses trying to ramp up to pre-pandemic levels. This ranges from the airline industry to hospital staff to neighbourhood donut shops.  Inflection-Shortages
  • Geopolitics has taken a disturbing turn for the worse. The stakes (aka military posturing and far, far worse) have been raised considerably. It turns out that people with power would rather stay in power and even extend their reach rather than get along with each other, the lives of millions and millions of people be damned.  Inflection-RussiaWar
  • Nationalism – aka racism and fomenting distrust and hatred of “others” – is being pushed in more and more places. As is the accompanying force of extremism. And it’s being fed by leaders with frighteningly authoritarian streaks, including in countries whose citizens have long valued their democracy. This is concerning in the extreme. Inflection-Nationalism
  • Climate change isn’t just a threat anymore, it’s a bloody frightening reality. Floods. Wildfires. Unprecedented droughts. Dry lakebeds and rivers. Extreme heat waves. Rising sea levels. What good does saving jobs in the fossil fuel industry do if we don’t have a planet left to live in or in which to be able to grow food?  Inflection-ClimateChange
  • The Supreme Court of the richest country in the world – the one that for a few decades was considered to lead the “free world” with its “moral authority” – has set back women’s health and welfare in that country by 50 years. WTF.  Inflection-Pro-Life
  • The UK government has paid Rwanda, a poor country in the middle of Africa, a handsome sum of money to receive asylum seekers that the UK doesn’t want. The mind boggles.
  • Inflation is hitting unprecedented levels around the world, and there seems to be more concern about who or what to blame than to work together to help those who will bear the brunt, namely working class people everywhere.  Inflection-Inflation

I could list more, but hopefully you get the point. At a time when the world has so much to recover from as we make our way out of the pandemic, surely we’d be far better off if our political leaders were following the workplace suggestions in the opinion piece in the Globe and Mail: encourage connectedness and lead with compassion.

Yes, we can all do that ourselves as well, and we should. Big time. It’s not only good for those we interact with, it’s good for our own mental health. It’s how we ordinary mortals can make our way in this world where so many in charge seem to have forgotten the importance of kindness. But individuals alone can’t make the changes needed.

Eileen Chadnick’s article ends by saying, “Humanity at work calls for courage, authenticity, and generosity.” Surely we should expect that from all our governments as well. Never more so than at this unsettling inflection point in history.

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42 Responses to At this inflection point in history, compassion has to stand its ground

  1. Roy McCarthy says:

    Late to this Jane but had to say what a fine job of summing up the state of our planet you have done. But whilst money and power hold sway then all we can do is our best on our own personal levels.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Roy, although I’d rather the rich and powerful hadn’t screwed up our world so badly that I felt compelled to write about it. You’re right, all we can do is our best at our own personal levels. I suppose it was ever thus, but for so long I had hopes.

  2. I’m always glad I stopped by to read your thoughts and insights. Thank you.

  3. barryh says:

    Great post, Jane. I wonder if there is not something ‘in the air’, the zeitgeist, that currently emphasises opposition and difference, which is magnified by media, ‘free’ politicians and those who think they benefit from such polarisation eg the rich. The zeitgeist has to change in the directions you indicate, but there will be much heartache in the meantime….

    • Wow Jane you have really rattled the cages with this one and got people thinking! I agree Barry and think we are all in for an extended period of political instability and potential disruptions to our otherwise normal staid lives.

      • Jane Fritz says:

        Thinking about these major distributors and their resulting consequences gives one pause to (1) realize how fortunate some of us are compared to those who live elsewhere and (2) realize how quickly things can change and to never be complacent.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I’m afraid you’re right that the zeitgeist isn’t going to turn around quickly, Barry. I’m thinking probably not in what’s left of my lifetime. And there’s altogether too much unnecessary heartache to experience, even for those of us fortunate enough to be at the periphery. Mankind truly is a work in progress. The operative word is “progress”!

  4. dfolstad58 says:

    I have my subscription with the Globe & Mail especially for the articles in the Opinion section. I admire the writers therein greatly. As I read this post I admired your writing and effort in this post also, truly. The points made, the illustrations and the clarity of thought. Thank you. – David

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks so much, David. I just wish there weren’t so many disturbing world events to think about and write about. Better to dwell on forces for good … like public libraries!

  5. Bernie says:

    Jane. I’ve been struggling with these issues. You’ve got a knack for articulating what so many of us are thinking. Rick Mercer said it well in a rant. Politicians forget, about 3 months after they are elected, who they represent. I am of course paraphrasing. How do we make them listen. Well in Canada we need electoral reform like Trudeau promised….but didn’t deliver.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Bernie, you make an excellent point about electoral reform. I’d forgotten about that, which was undoubtedly their hope. I’m quite sure it was put on the shelf when it became clear that getting a majority with any of the alternative models (changing from first-past-the-post) would be nearly impossible. Personally, I think the healthiest govt we have is when we have a minority govt and they have to compromise. Imagine, having to compromise! Then they have to listen!! (For those of you who might wonder what we’re talking about, this is Canadian politics!)

      • Bernie says:

        That was one of JT’s first promises if he got elected. For far too long (well I guess it is forever in the lifetime of Canada) the west had no impact. The elections are decided before most of our stations even close. It lead to the formation of the Reform Party and now I fear more divisiveness is on it’s way. I believe like you that minority governments are the best.

  6. Rose says:

    Your words, and the words of your commentors are encouraging to read. There are many people who want to maintain or re-attain levels of compassionate involvement – in politics, at work, and elsewhere in the world.
    I love Eileen’s ending phrase, ““Humanity at work calls for courage, authenticity, and generosity.” Would it be possible to require all people in the public eye have these characteristics?
    The images you chose pack powerful expressions in their toonish presentation. Both the pro-life in America and political climate change images struck a chord with me.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Yes, Rose, the good news is that there are MANY, MANY people distressed, even despairing, over the current state of affairs. We can’t give up and accept that cruel, self-serving people will rule at will. We need to support those people running for office at all levels, in all countries (where citizens have a voice), who think in terms of “what positive difference can I make to ALL constituents” as opposed to “what’s in it for me”. 🤞🙏

  7. All eloquently put, Jane. I’ll never get used to politicians now coiled by the word “compromise.” It used to be a hallmark of any legislative process that once all the extremes were voiced, the end result was a coalescing towards a resolution that everyone could accept. But polarization of all segments of society, including public health policy for goodness sakes, is the norm. I’m sometimes exhausted by it all. Thanks for your sage thoughts today. – Marty

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Marty. This current proactive encouragement/incitement to polarization has no happy ending for anyone, just short term power (and money) grabs for the promoters. This path couldn’t be more discouraging, and I’m being polite by using that adjective.

  8. Diane Taylor says:

    What you have succinctly written is such a great overview of what ‘s going on. I’d like to use it with a recently arrived Ukrainian gentleman who wants to expand his knowledge of the English language. I meet with him for the first time on Monday. May I offer your blog piece to him as study material that we would go over together for vocabulary, prepositions, etc, and discussion? (We are just east of Toronto)

  9. Good points, but there are some people, including my daughter, her boss, and many in her department, who enjoy working from home. Between long commutes and a completely open office, you can’t really blame them.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      For sure. I know several such people myself. I think that’s one thing the pandemic as disrupter has done that is positive, forcing remote work for an extended period and as a result introducing the notion of a hybrid office model. I think her argument for people-centred leadership is important regardless. People working remotely (and this has been the case with many IT-based teams for a long time) still need to feel connected and valued. Creating and sustaining that atmosphere with new hires is a big challenge for remote workers. Anyway, I wasn’t trying to argue for in-office work. I was trying to apply that principle of compassion and collaboration for a successful workplace (in-office, remote, or hybrid) to leadership more broadly, especially political leadership.

  10. You raise a great question, Jane. I suspect the built-in adversarial nastiness in politics is why so many people are turned off by it and don’t make the effort to go to the polls. I just don’t know if it can be turned around.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I think you’ve nailed it, Debra, and we live in a country where there’s more hope for collaboration than in most these days. We need to recognize how fragile a seemingly healthy democracy can be if we don’t pay attention and help get out the vote at every election.

      • Agree, Jane. We have to support our politicians, despite themselves. We have a few really good, emotionally mature politicians here in BC. The upcoming municipal elections in Oct. should be interesting 🙂

        • Jane Fritz says:

          For sure. We have some emotionally mature politicians at the federal level, too. As we saw in Feb, things can off the rails quite quickly, and the influence of online “misinformation” and outside money isn’t going away any time soon. 🤞🤞🙏

  11. Reblogged this on Musings and Wonderings and commented:
    Put your thinking cap on for this!

  12. Thanks again Jane for writing what hopefully many of us are thinking and maybe even contemplating what we can do about our present situation. Often I find it very discouraging to listen to the news and sometimes wonder how we could be different if we only had the good news delivered to us? I just finished watching the PBS news and the political analysis of Brooks and Capeheart, both of whom I really respect. I found tonight’s dialogue very disquieting as they agree on the seriousness of the recent FBI raid on Trump’s home and the potential fallout.
    Exciting but depressing times!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      There’s so little to be reassured about at the moment, that’s what’s so very concerning. I didn’t hear Brooks and Capeheart tonight (RIP Mark Shields), but the recent opinion pieces in the NYT by Brooks are not at all hopeful about resolution and cooperation. 😥

  13. Wynne Leon says:

    Beautifull written and artfully illustrated, Jane! Courage, authenticity and generosity sound like a great list for our leaders! And for everyone – thank you for the call to action!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Many thanks, Wynne. The Chinese proverb you started your post with today was very appropriate to the kind of world our leaders SHOULD be working towards, one where everyone is lifted up: “When the water in the harbour goes up, all the boats rise.” 💕

  14. Jane, I always find myself nodding my head in agreement as I read your posts. You nailed it again with this post, and the cartoons you chose are the perfect punctuation. I am afraid for my country and our world if we continue down this hateful road of mind-boggling hypocrisy and division.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I know, Natalie, the fear-mongering and worse that’s increasingly prevalent is heartbreaking, not to mention the gobs of money behind the scene that influence politics and political decisions in many places. We’re falling further away from creating a world that is a welcoming place for everyone.

  15. heimdalco says:

    This is so on the point, thought provoking & heartbreaking. I was brought up expecting the politicians to put country ahead of party/personal gain so this is very surprising to my generation. I see politicians at the forefront of so many of the problems we are having & my heart weeps. I also see where I believe it started. The one saving grace is that I don ‘t think our citizens/people in general are all as bad as it appears. The crazies get the press because they are just that … the crazies. But during times of natural disasters, school massacres & life threatening events, the majority of people will drop their politics & hatred & go to the aid of those in need … & that gives me hope. Sadly we can’t control what’s happening globally but we CAN possibly have control over what’s happening immediately around us, which may have far reaching ripple effects.

    I can’t imagine working in the office environment in these post-pandemic times. As an OR RN of many years our nurses, doctors, anesthesiologists, auxiliary help & cleaning crew worked as a TEAM. We HAD to or lives were lost. Each of us had our specific jobs & each depended on the other to get us through crisis after crisis. I’m betting that even today those OR teams are working in the same way & still struggling with exhaustion but maintaining their dedication & their place on the team. I wish politicians had that sort of work ethic because they are, basically dealing with the lives of us all. A little team work & humanity would be a huge step forward for them

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks so much, Linda. I agree with you completely, when I was growing up I also believed that our politicians had the best interests of all the people at heart. I’m sure I was somewhat naive, but it wasn’t like this. Somehow we have to get back on that track. In our democracies we at least have the advantage of being able to make changes at the voting booth. We can’t give up and accept current unacceptable situations.

    • Bernie says:

      Disruptive people are not respected in the Operating Room no matter who they are. As you said real team work is essential to save lives. Too bad politicians don’t care about their impact on people.

  16. 100% agree with every word. One day I hope that enough of us will wake up and realize that it is our responsibility to vote the unsavory out of office. That’s going to take a whole lot of prayer, positive thinking energy, and a determination to see light win over darkness. I vote in favor of light outshining the dark. Light always wins in the end—and the good news is—we WILL win. Blog power—group think light! Thank you Robby. PS: Love the ‘cartoons’.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks very much for your agreement and personal commitment, Julie. It’s so frightening to witness how easily and quickly inclusive, people-focused policies can be overturned by targeted divisive rhetoric. Mankind can be better than this.

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