Dr. Andrea Hollingsworth
Hollingsworth Consulting

Those are just some ways to describe workplace toxicity. I’m sure you can think of many more. Toxic work environments are marked by unhealthy work/life boundaries, distrust amongst employees, inconsistency of support, perfectionism (no room for error), uncivil or unkind interactions, and high levels of illness (physical and mental) amongst employees.

Pain + disconnection = workplace toxicity. Employees are suffering, and no one seems to see, care, or do anything about it. This is the very definition of a lack of compassion.

But why? Why is there so little compassion in organizational life? What keeps people from feeling seen, felt, and supported at work? What keeps workplaces toxic?

Recent research reveals the following factors:

  • An unrelenting over-emphasis on performance and competition can keep people too overwhelmed to notice others’ suffering.
  • Fears about compassion costing too much time and money cause people to believe that investing in those who are hurting will hinder financial and organizational goals.
  • There is a common fear of being seen as weak, soft, or a burden to others. Vulnerability is often viewed as a liability.
  • There is an implicit “rule” that emotions have no place and no importance at work.
  • Organizational politics (e.g., rivalry for promotions, power plays) can create resentment between colleagues, and detract from an environment in which genuine human care can thrive.
  • Lack of trust amongst coworkers, or between leaders and those they lead, can make it difficult to become sensitive and responsive to suffering.

Organizations can detox. They can overcome these common obstacles to compassion. It takes the initiative of leaders who are intentional, committed, and confident in the strong business case that exists for investing in compassion in their organizations.

About Andrea

Dr. Andrea Hollingsworth is a speaker, researcher, and seasoned psychotherapist who has spent decades studying the transformative power of compassionate leadership.

One of today’s leading global experts on compassion, she has written and spoken extensively on the subject since 2008. Her articles on the science and spirituality of human relationships have been published more than a dozen times in peer-reviewed journals. She has taught at prestigious institutions like Princeton, Boston University, and Loyola University Chicago, and delivered talks to audiences at some of the top-ranked universities in the world—including Cambridge University in England and Heidelberg University in Germany.

Andrea spends most of her time helping leaders and teams use The Compassion Advantage to build supercharged organizations through cultures of care—especially in times of challenge and change.

She lives in Maple Grove, Minnesota, with her family where she adores good books, conversations, and coffee.