Understanding compassion capability

By: Jacoba M. Lilius, Monica C. Worline, Jane Dutton, Jason M. Kanov, Sally Maitlis

Lilius, J. , Worline, M., Dutton, J.E., Kanov, J., & Maitlis, S. (2011). Understanding compassion capability, Human Relations, 64(7), 873-891.


We elaborate a theory of the foundations of a collective capability for compassion through a detailed analysis of everyday practices in an organizational unit. Our induced theory of compassion capability draws on the findings of an interview study to illustrate and explain how a specific set of everyday practices creates two relational conditions – high quality connections and a norm of dynamic boundary permeability – that enable employees of a collective unit to notice, feel and respond to members’ suffering. By articulating the mechanisms that connect everyday practices and a work unit’s compassion capability, we provide insight into the relational micro-foundations of a capability grounded in individual action and interaction.