How to Rule Your Workplace (with Compassion)

Lodro Rinzler offers advice for creating a more compassionate workplace

No one wakes up in the morning and says, “You know what? I want to be a jerk at the office today.” We all want to work in an environment infused with wakefulness and compassion.

Yet few of us know how to bring those qualities into our workplace environment. One set of Shambhala Buddhist teachings I’ve always found helpful in this regard is known as the Six Ways of Ruling. The Six Ways of Ruling teach us to face aggression with compassion.

Benevolent: “Let aggression exhaust itself”

The first step is trying to remain open and accommodating at work by giving your challenges a lot of space. Imagine an angry bull. If put in a small pen, an angry bull will continue to buck around, unable to release his tension. However, if you take that animal and put it in an open field he will run around until he tires himself out. The same can be said of another person’s aggression.

The idea of remaining benevolent is that we are not throwing fuel on the fire of aggression. We let aggression exhaust itself. Perhaps the image of the angry bull might inspire a sense of humor in you. Keeping a sense of humor and not taking things personally are ways of keeping an open mind in the midst of aggression.

True: “We’re both basically good”

This is not to say that you should lie down like a doormat at work. This brings us to the quality of true. Being true in this sense is not simply being diplomatic but is actually connecting with your heart. I come from a tradition that believes that all beings are basically good. You can remain true to your understanding of your basic goodness while confronting tough issues. So you invert the “me” versus “my jerk of a co-worker” model into “we’re both basically good and in this together.”

Genuine: “Point to the logic”

This takes us into the third way of ruling, being genuine. The idea of being genuine is that when you have a point to make, you ground it in logic. As my teacher Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche has said, “It is not even our genuineness particularly. It is just genuine, a star in the sky that everyone can see. We all recognize the truth.” In other words, if you are at work and clearly see that something needs to be done, then point to the logic around that. Here we cut through the notion of you being right and the other person being wrong and simply show the reality of what is happening.

Fearless: “Have faith in yourself”

Along those lines, when it is time for us to make a decision at work, we need to be fearless. Grounded in Benevolent, True, and Genuine, you may come up with an activity that needs to be accomplished. When it is time to actually do something, act fearlessly. Feeling reticent about how things ought to be done takes the wind out of the sails of an entire project. Fear can be contagious, so have faith in yourself and your basic goodness.

Artful: “Set up your day skillfully”

Ruling your work situation is an art, not a science. You can set up your day skillfully to maximize your time and spend it with co-workers with whom you will be productive. Remember that consideration for others is at the root of being artful. With consideration we open up a space for others to discover their own wisdom.

Rejoicing: “Find joy in being true to yourself”

Cultivating these qualities in the workplace is worthy of rejoicing. It’s hard not to respond to aggression with more aggression. But when you start to look at your life and rejoice, you may find that you are happier. You feel more comfortable in your own skin because you are being true to yourself in the midst of great obstacles. We should celebrate that.

Lodro Rinzler is offering a five-week online class on this topic. To sign up click here.

Lodro Rinzler is a teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage and the author of five books, including the best-selling The Buddha Walks into a Bar…, the award-winning Walk Like a Buddha and the forthcoming How to Love Yourself (And Sometimes Other People). Over the last decade he has taught numerous workshops at meditation centers, businesses, and college campuses throughout North America. He is the founder of the Institute for Compassionate Leadership, an authentic leadership training and job placement organization, and lives in Brooklyn with his dog Tillie and his cat Justin Bieber.