Angela Chen

Department of Management and Marketing

Phone number +61 3 9035 8696 Email

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Angela Chen is a PhD Candidate in Management at the University of Melbourne, Australia.  Her dissertation focuses on understanding how compassion and suffering arise in businesses through the way HR practices are implemented.  Angela is qualitative researcher.  Her research interests include suffering, compassion, positive organizations, and sustainable HRM.  In addition to teaching classes in organizational behavior and international business (The Multinational), she has served as a research assistant and teaching assistant at the University of Melbourne and the Melbourne Business School.  She received her M.A. in Human Resources and Industrial Relations from the University of Minnesota.  Her Master in Applied Positive Psychology and Master of Commerce (Management) are from the University of Melbourne.  She received her B.S. in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University.  She is a recipient of an Australian Government Research Training Partnership Scholarship. Before embarking in academia, she worked 17 years as a human resource professional for Marathon Petroleum Company, Marathon Oil Company, and Ford Motor Company in the United States and Equatorial Guinea.  Her professional certifications include the SPHR, GPHR, and SHRM-SCP.

Thesis Title

Understanding Compassion and Suffering in Contemporary Organizations:

Thesis Summary

Research into compassion in workplaces has increased in recent years, generating insight into how the process of compassion (noticing, sensemaking, feeling, responding) can help alleviate employee suffering.  However, stories of organizations causing employee suffering in the workplace still abound.  For example, claims of inhumane conditions within Amazon warehouses worldwide have come under scrutiny recently in the news.  The process of compassion organizing assumes: suffering is inevitable, compassion is innate, and compassion is a moral imperative.  However, the process of compassion does not take into account the capitalist context within which businesses operate that belie those assumptions, making it potentially difficult for compassion to manifest.  Because the beliefs, values and norms inherent to capitalism are at times contrary to compassion, it creates a tension between capitalism and compassion within organizations.  Using an interpretivist approach, combined with participant interviews, company archives and inductive analysis, this research seeks to understand: (1) How does business-as-usual in the form of human resource practices contribute to employee suffering? (2) How does compassion emerge in capitalist organizations? (3) How does compassion alleviate suffering for employees in capitalist organizations?  This study will contribute to management theory by creating a framework to explain how the potential tension between capitalism and compassion within organizational practices contributes to employee suffering.  The second contribution will theorize how organizational practices can be carried out in a way that prevent suffering whenever possible and promote a flourishing organizational culture for employees, while also contributing to the financial sustainability of the organization.