What is your Level of Pain at Work?

Pain costs companies billions of dollars a year because pain prevents people from exploring new opportunities. When we are in pain, we disengage and shut down. Our performance and productivity plummet. You can guess what happens to the profits.

Unfortunately, many leaders don’t put employee pain as a priority. They are busy and have their own pain to deal with. That’s understandable but I have to ask, “Isn’t that rather backward?”

What is Your Level of Pain at Work?

Those that follow me know I work to help individuals and organizations think bigger and reach higher to do what others never thought possible. This includes creating a cutting-edge culture that engages and empowers teams to become disruptive leaders and delivers the desired innovation. When we take the effort to care and connect, we can collaborate and create the ultimate performance, production and profits. 

Isn’t that what we all desire?

Unfortunately, too often we miss innovative opportunities because too many or significant members of our team are disabled by pain.


Pain is anything that negatively impacts us. It might be pain from a physical ailment or injury. It could also be the the emotional pain from a bad relationship or loss of a loved one. It might be the mental pain of not being able to resolve a persistent problem. Then there is the financial pain of not having enough money to pay the bill or the social pain of not being included. But what we are most interested in is the pain experienced at work.

In our new book, LEADING with the POWER of COMPASSION, to be released in July (there will be a limited release at the SHRM19 conference in Las Vegas in June), we detail how to address these pains with a scale from 1 (Minor Pain) to 10 (Traumatic Pain).


Traumatic pain registers 7-10 on the 10 point pain scale.

Too often our team suffers a trauma that changes their lives. The pain is so intense that it disrupts their daily routine. As managers, we need to know how to react with compassion if we want to minimize the damage. In our book The ROI of Compassion, we provide a resource for managers that specifically addresses the pain that ranges from a 7-10 on the pain scale.

The problem with traumatic pain is that it is so debilitating and so relentless. The death of a close family member is life altering as well as incredibly demanding on our time. Even though we might get 3 days of bereavement leave, our lives are significantly altered for at least a year.

  • What traumatic pain have you suffered in the last year?
  • How is it still affecting you?
  • What has your manager or team done to help alleviate that pain?
  • Did their actions help?


Moderate Pain registers 4-6 on the 10 point pain scale.

Then there are the situations that are not traumatic but never-the-less, significant and disrupt our performance. This might include being passed over for a promotion or raise. It might also be a reorganization, new process or a new manager.

The problem with moderate pain is that it makes us question our current situation. The organization and executives might expect some turnover but for you as an individual employee, changing jobs or even considering changing jobs could be quite painful. Imagine if changing jobs means relocating your family?

Ask yourself the following. If you are a leader, ask your team these questions.

  • What moderate pain do I currently have at work?
  • In light of that pain, do I still want to work here?
  • Is it going to improve?
  • If so, when?
  • If not, what are my other options?


Minor Pain registers 1-3 on the 10 point pain scale.

Then there are the minor pains. They seem to happen quite frequently and might even seem like they are part of the job. There is is always some other employee who irritates us and it might even be our manager. We know we have to ignore it but it is a little irritation that, if we don’t address it, drives us nuts. We have to admit, everyone of us has something like that.

Sometimes we are the “snowflakes” that are too sensitive. As leaders, too often we see team members who need to be a little more resilient. (We have all encountered the petty childlike bickering of “Mom, make him stop. He’s looking out my window.”)

Whether justified or not, those small pains, if not addressed, can linger into the caustic problem of disengagement. We all know by now that disengagement diminishes the productivity and profitability of an organization. Unfortunately, too many managers and executives dismiss seemingly minor pain. Ask yourself and others the following questions:

  • What minor pain are you experiencing?
  • How is it affecting your performance?
  • What minor pain do you notice in your team?
  • What can you do to help alleviate that minor pain?

In the end, pain is personal. Just because your pain is not important to me, that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to you.

Pain, and especially the intense pain of trauma, quickly erodes a team member’s performance, which threatens the team’s production and company profits.

Lisa Murfield is presenting twice at the SHRM19 conference in Las Vegas. On Monday, June 24 at 10:45-11:45 she is presenting “Employee Trauma: What Happened in Vegas didn’t Stay in Vegas.” On Tuesday, June 25 at 11:10-11:28 she is presenting on the SMART Stage for a talk on “Calculating the ROI of Compassion.” Book signings will Monday 12:00-12:15 and Tuesday 11:30-11:45

(c) 2019 Murfield International, Inc.




Loren Murfield, Ph.D.

I work with leaders and organizations think bigger and reach higher to find breakthrough success. This is a process that I can help you learn. Begin the process today by contacting me. 

Start learning how you can engage employees during their most traumatic moments in our newly revised and just released book, “The ROI of COMPASSION.” Watch for the release of our new book, “Leading with the Power of Compassion” in June, 2019.

ROI of Compassion 2018

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