Compassion in the Context of Capitalistic Organizations: Evidence from the 2011 Brisbane Floods

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Journal Article
Journal of Business Ethics, 2015, 130 (3), pp. 683 - 703
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© 2014, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. Despite common assumptions that capitalism and compassion are contradictory, we theorize that compassion (1) can be compatible with capitalism, and (2) may either manifest or be inhibited within capitalistic society through a range of organizational approaches. These, in turn, result in varying consequences for employees’ experiences, feelings, and behaviors. In this article, we examine the perceived support provided to employees by their organizations during the 2011 Brisbane flood. Analysis of interview data identifies a continuum of organizational responses: from neglect to ambiguity to compassionate care, each of which engendered various employee experiences, feelings, and behaviors toward themselves, their organizations, and the community at large. The empirical findings lead to theorizing that the perceived organizational responses are consonant with a range of capitalistic tendencies. Perceived organizational neglect is most consonant with neoclassical capitalism, understood as having a primary focus on self-interest and profit maximization. Perceived ambiguity tends to fit with a supplemental capitalism that adds social responsibility to the baseline of classical capitalism. Organizational compassionate care fits with a transformed or conscious capitalism that considers value creation in society to be an organization’s primary purpose.
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