How Leaders Can Be More Compassionate to Employees (a guest blog)

by Rose Julian

When asked where acts of compassion regularly occur, the office would probably be last on your mind! Professional environments are focused on advancement and economic outcomes to achieve success, so it’s natural to wonder where something like compassion might come into play.

Recently, however, studies have started to explore how compassion is an essential ingredient in the sustainable growth and financial success of businesses, especially given the demands of work today. More than just being empathetic, it’s time for leaders to consider how they can be more compassionate to their employees.

What is Compassion, and What is Its Role in the Workplace?

The definition of compassion goes back to early philosophy, where Aristotle defined it as an emotion directed towards someone else’s suffering. It requires three components: that the suffering must be considered serious, the suffering should not be deserved, and the observer must recognize that they bear the same vulnerabilities as the sufferer.

This might sound a lot like empathy, which is no surprise since they are related. Empathy has been a big buzzword in leadership, referring to an ability to understand others’ perspectives and emotions. The difference is that compassion takes it one step further by driving those thoughts and feelings with a desire to help.

As business and management become more complex in a fast-paced world, the bar for workplace performance is raised, placing a lot of pressure on employees. While opportunities for growth are present, they are also more difficult to attain with cross-functional roles and constant change. Add that to issues employees face in their personal lives, and leaders are bound to encounter a staff member who is suffering in one way or another. Rather than viewing these as weaknesses that can threaten an organization, leaders can recognize that they can provide concrete support to their employees.

more compassionate to employees

Ways to Lead With Compassion

There are several ways leaders can demonstrate compassion and show support in the workplace. Here are a few ways to lead with this approach.


Self-awareness can make you a better leader by allowing you to stretch those cognitive muscles that govern your emotional quotient (EQ) to understand your feelings. This, in turn, helps you connect with others. Being in tune with your emotions this way allows you to make more grounded decisions during a complex workday, all while navigating others’ emotional needs with a clear state of mind.

Provide Concrete Support

There’s nothing your employees will appreciate more than concrete change! These can be in the form of recognizing employees for their efforts, actively checking in during times of crisis, and, most importantly, providing financial and practical support where possible. Consider more flexible policies, such as expanded health coverage, extended leave, and additional paid time off. Even something as simple as subsidizing office supplies for home offices, including ergonomic accessories like wrist rests and laptop stands, is bound to be a hit with your staff. These can help boost productivity and morale, giving you a pretty good ROI—a win-win!

Encourage Boundaries

With today’s working culture, it isn’t uncommon for employees to extend themselves beyond their personal boundaries to accommodate work, which is unhealthy and unsustainable. Leaders can use psychology-based literature to effectively encourage scientifically backed routines and work arrangements that allow employees to get the job done under flexible conditions. Fostering a culture of healthy boundary-setting can be tricky, but with the right guidance, it can help you and your staff more than you expect!


Leaders are given a tremendous amount of responsibility, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming to bear all the problems that come with such a role. By starting with self-compassion and asking if you’re meeting your needs, only then will you be able to extend that to others. Moreover, compassion in the workplace is going beyond a listening ear and actually extending a helping hand, and at the end of the day, it’s that one small action that can make the biggest difference to your employees and the team as a whole.