Against the flowA process theory of imprinting and economics of organizational compassion

  1. Barmase, Swapnil
Supervised by:
  1. Joan Fontrodona Felip Director

Defence university: Universidad de Navarra

Fecha de defensa: 16 November 2018

  1. Domingo Melé Carné Chair
  2. Alberto Ribera Azorín Secretary
  3. Magdalena Bosch Rabell Committee member
  4. Rafael Morales-Sánchez Committee member
  5. Carlos María Moreno Pérez Committee member

Type: Thesis

Teseo: 149517 DIALNET


Compassion is both timely and timeless topic because suffering is inevitable in human life. From day-to-day suffering like loss or illness of a loved one to tragedies like 9/11 attacks or a Tsunami, pain and suffering disrupts one’s personal life and negatively spills over one’s professional life. Organizations can help reduce this suffering and can help cope with this pain through organizational compassion (OC). My contention is that beyond their role in minimizing coordination costs (Coase, 1937), organizations can fulfill a greater purpose: to enhance the quality of life for people who work within and are affected by them. OC is defined as the collectively noticing, sympathizing and coordinating response to alleviate pain. Previous research informs that the emergence of compassion in an organization is uncertain. The emergence depends on existing systemic organizational factors such as, structures, norms, roles & routines, culture, and architecture that may not always foster the emergence of compassionate organizational practices. We are missing exact prescriptions about creating compassionate organizations and a full account of the transformational process involved in the emergence of OC. At an individual level, in order to understand the transformational process involved in compassion, I first advance a novel and detailed working definition of compassion. It consists of five components empathy, sympathy, altruistic response, rationality, and habituation. Combining ancient philosophical traditions with the recent finding of modern sciences, particularly, neurosciences and evolutionary game theory, I propose that compassion is a virtue that can form the basis of morality, economics, and governance. At an organizational level, in order to bridge the gap in the literature and to reduce the uncertainty associated with the manifestation of OC, I advance a ‘Process Theory’ of ‘OC Imprinting’ using the tripartite framework of ‘Organizational Imprinting’. In line with the generic imprinting framework, OC imprinting consists of three phases: genesis, metamorphosis, and manifestation. Genesis is theorized as a process rather a one-shot event where, suffering is internalized by an organizational member (focal actor) through four pathways: personality trait, emotional state, reactance, and relational identification. The focal actor/s transform the internalized suffering into reified imprints, which means creating artifacts (biographies, mission statement, structures, and roles) and symbolic objects (such as narratives, stories, leadership, logos, architectures) demonstrating presence of OC. During the metamorphosis phase, these reified imprints of compassion are amplified and spread throughout the organizations and then acquire persistence through institutionalization or formalizations. Depending on the origin of the genesis, that is, at the lower echelons or the upper echelons of the firm, metamorphosis takes either bottom-up pathway where, imprints spiral upward or top-down pathway, respectively. Lastly, I study and analytically model the effect of OC on organizational economics, particularly, on organizational performance, explaining the results of several empirical studies. I conclude the thesis by identifying the main theoretical contributions, limitations and relevant managerial implications.