Compassion in the Workplace

Compassion in the workplace
Written by Charlotte - 16 Aug 2018 Category: HR news

Compassion is increasingly recognised as a foundational aspect of leadership and the building block for a positive work environment.

Compassion is increasingly recognised as a foundational aspect of leadership and the building block for a positive work environment. Studies have found that organisations with compassionate leaders have high rates of collaboration and employee satisfaction.

What is Compassion?

Compassion literally means ‘to suffer together’. It describes the intention to consider and support the wellbeing of others by listening to their concerns, taking time to understand their situation and having empathy for their position - being able to feel, to some degree, something of their suffering -  however uncomfortable that might be.

With an emphasis on consideration, compassion translates neatly to the working environment where different teams have to find ways of communicating with and supporting one another to solve various problems and get the job done. Facilitating such a harmonious way of working is where compassionate leadership comes in.

Compassionate leadership means taking responsibility for the growth and development of employees, leading with the heart as much as the head. Not to be confused with kindness, compassionate leading goes beyond being ‘nice’: to lead compassionately means taking time to connect and truly be present with employees while still adhering to the organisation’s standards, code of conduct and other defined boundaries that are conducive to employee growth and happiness.

Why We Need Compassion at Work

Teams thrive when the members trust their leader cares about them, and there’s a powerful link between productivity and compassionate leadership.

Compassion also creates a sense of psychological safety so that staff feel able to raise concerns about mistakes or problems that they encounter in the workplace. Psychological safety also encourages employees to develop and implement ideas for new and improved ways of doing things.

How to Cultivate Compassion at Work

Organisational psychologists Monica Worline and Jane Dutton have written in detail about cultivating compassion at work. They describe several scenarios that organisations can use to foster more opportunities for compassion:


  • Create sub-groups within a larger organisation where people with shared duties can develop camaraderie
  • Have regular meetings where people are encouraged to share mistakes alongside achievements to make workplaces safe for learning
  • Formally recognise acts of compassion at work to promote more generosity and consideration
  • Ask leaders to role-model their vulnerability to create an atmosphere of safety and trust.


The case for compassionate leadership is strong; the challenge now is to build a workplace environment that leaves room for compassionate ways of working, despite looming deadlines and other organisational pressures. HR professionals and other leaders need to heed the call and prioritise leading compassionately for a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.

Are you a compassionate leader? Take this quiz to find out.


About CiviHR

CiviHR is a project to create affordable HR software for non-profit organisations. By developing open source technology the benefits can be shared with non-profits everywhere.


CiviHR is a project to create affordable HR software for non-profit organisations. By developing open source technology the benefits can be shared with non-profits everywhere.