Introducing compassion to your workplace has big benefits

Many firmly believe compassion has no place in the business world. While some managers fear showing too much kindness could be perceived as weakness, others think pressure—not compassion—is the only way to keep employees productive.


Compassion not only improves workplace culture, but it can also help a company’s bottom line.

Employee retention

Would you want to work for a boss who yells at you when you call in sick? Or would you prefer to have a boss who shows empathy for issues you experience outside the office? Creating a compassionate workplace is one of the best ways to retain employees over the long haul, which will also boost the company’s bottom dollar.

Decreased stress

A compassionate workplace supports employee efforts to manage stress. Rather than hover around the water cooler shouting at everyone to get back to work, a compassionate leader encourages employees to engage in healthy amounts of conversation.

When allowed to linger for a few minutes during breaks, employees are likely to strike up conversations about what goes on in their lives. Discussions about family, children and hobbies occur. A 2012 study published in BMC Public Health showed that when employees feel like they’re bonding, their stress level decreases. And decreased stress means employees are less likely to burn out and more likely to be productive.

Improved health

Positive social interactions also lead to physical health benefits, according to a 2008 study published in the Academy of Management Review. A few minutes spent mingling with co-workers every day can help lower blood pressure and decrease heart rate. These beneficial physiological changes boost employees’ immune systems and reduce absenteeism. Employees who are in good health tend to be more productive.

Research also shows that fostering better health also has a domino effect that can help the entire family. When employees feel better, they’re more likely to exhibit behavior that can have a positive impact on their families—such as cooking healthier meals and taking part in physical activities. When entire families are healthy, employees are less likely to need to use their sick leave.

Compassion and social support have been linked to faster recovery from illness. Sending flowers to a co-worker who has just given birth, or providing meals to an employee who has had surgery, are just a few simple gestures that can help people feel better faster. Managers who want to foster compassion can create opportunities for employees to help one another—such as allowing workers to donate sick leave to people with long-term illnesses.

Compassion is contagious

While many fear that showing compassion encourages employees to take advantage of graciousness, research shows the opposite. When leaders behave in a compassionate manner, employees reciprocate.

A 2010 study published in PNAS found that cooperative behavior cascades in human networks. In a series of studies, participants repeatedly showed a desire to pay-it-forward.

People feel good about themselves when they’re treated with compassion. As a result, they tend to want to extend those positive feelings to others. Office productivity is much more likely to soar when co-workers are cooperating, rather than competing with one another’s efforts.

Creating a culture of compassion

Any organization can introduce compassion to the workplace. Small steps can make a big difference—cheerful greetings, conversations about family members, or simply delivering an employee a much needed cup of coffee can set the tone for a compassionate environment. Showing people you care, and creating policies that foster compassion, are simple but effective ways to improve business.

Author: Amy Morin is a psychotherapist, keynote speaker, and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.