5 Ways to Show Compassion in the Workplace

One person is providing support for another by holding their hand. The person on the left is wearing a green sweater and purple pants.


The Dalai Lama once said that indi­vid­ual acts of kind­ness and com­pas­sion have the pow­er to cre­ate har­mo­ny across the entire world — imag­ine what it could do inside of an office setting. 

What is com­pas­sion, and why is it an impor­tant com­po­nent of healthy work­places? How can busi­ness lead­ers express com­pas­sion in their workplace?

Defining Compassion

Accord­ing to the U.C. Berkeley’s Greater Good Mag­a­zine, com­pas­sion is the feel­ing that aris­es when you are con­front­ed with another’s suf­fer­ing and feel moti­vat­ed to relieve that suffering.”

Often used inter­change­ably, com­pas­sion is dif­fer­ent from empa­thy, which is the abil­i­ty to relate and under­stand the per­spec­tive and emo­tions of anoth­er per­son. Com­pas­sion includes empa­thy, but it has the added lay­er of the desire to help.

Express­ing com­pas­sion has been sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly proven to slow down the heart rate and cause the body to secrete oxy­tocin, the bond­ing hor­mone. It also lights up the care­giv­ing, empa­thy and plea­sure cen­ters of the brain which often results in our want­i­ng to approach and care for oth­er people.

The Benefits of a Compassionate Workplace

A group of coworkers are smiling and putting their hands together in a circle. The wall behind them is brick, and there is a white heater on the wall under a window.


There are many sci­en­tif­ic stud­ies on the ben­e­fits of com­pas­sion. Indi­vid­u­al­ly and com­pa­ny-wide, express­ing and receiv­ing com­pas­sion can have a range of pos­i­tive ben­e­fits. On an indi­vid­ual lev­el, express­ing and receiv­ing com­pas­sion can improve phys­i­cal and emo­tion­al health, improve resilience and decrease feel­ings of loneliness.

Orga­ni­za­tions that employ com­pas­sion have:

  • Less stressed employees

  • Greater job sat­is­fac­tion across the board

  • High­er employ­ee engagement

  • Increased team loyalty

  • High­er rates of cooperation

Peer-to-peer com­pas­sion is impor­tant, of course, but what busi­ness­es need more of is com­pas­sion from lead­er­ship, as lead­ers set the tone for the entire workplace. 

If com­pas­sion comes from the top, it’s much more like­ly to trick­le down through­out the orga­ni­za­tion. A recent study showed that peo­ple view com­pas­sion­ate lead­ers as more com­pe­tent and stronger than uncom­pas­sion­ate leaders.

5 Ways Leaders Can Show Compassion in the Workplace

1. Listen and Communicate Mindfully

Someone is placing a hand on another’s shoulder to comfort them.


Lead­ers should adopt an open-door pol­i­cy and ensure their peo­ple feel com­fort­able talk­ing about issues. They should prac­tice and pro­mote trans­paren­cy in their own words and allow employ­ees to be com­plete­ly hon­est with­out fear of repercussions.

Lis­ten­ing and com­mu­ni­cat­ing go beyond express­ing issues, though. Tru­ly com­pas­sion­ate lead­ers invite reg­u­lar con­ver­sa­tion and input from their peo­ple. They give their employ­ees a chance to express their ideas and con­tribute in a mean­ing­ful way. Most impor­tant­ly, they lis­ten when their employ­ees talk and they tru­ly try to absorb and take action when appropriate.

2. Diversify Benefits

Being com­pas­sion­ate requires an aware­ness of diver­si­ty. Peo­ple aren’t all the same, and as such, their ben­e­fits shouldn’t be either. Rather than offer­ing stan­dard­ized ben­e­fits, com­pas­sion­ate lead­ers should con­sid­er diver­si­fy­ing their company’s ben­e­fits pack­ages to ensure their peo­ple get the actu­al ben­e­fits they need in order to be healthy and whole.

This could mean includ­ing a pro­vi­sion for child­care, a trans­porta­tion stipend, a month­ly gro­cery bud­get or cov­er­ing month­ly stream­ing ser­vices. The employ­ees’ needs should dic­tate which ben­e­fits are the best options.

To real­ly show com­pas­sion for every indi­vid­ual employ­ee, lead­ers should con­sid­er acus­tomized ben­e­fits plat­form, like Fringe, so employ­ees can choose the ben­e­fits that best fit their lives.

3. Express Gratitude

A person is sitting at a table, writing a thank you card with a pen. There is a white plate, a glass and a fork also on the table.


Every­one likes feel­ing appre­ci­at­ed for the work they do. Lead­ers that take the time to thank their employ­ees for their hard work com­mu­ni­cate a cou­ple of things to their employ­ees. It sig­nals that the leader val­ues the employ­ee and shows that the leader is pay­ing atten­tion to the employee’s contribution.

Grat­i­tude, like com­pas­sion, has ben­e­fits for both the giv­er and the receiv­er. Instill­ing appre­ci­a­tion and grat­i­tude lead to high­er rates of hap­pi­ness, improved health, stronger rela­tion­ships and a high­er abil­i­ty to tack­le adversity.

Express­ing grat­i­tude is anoth­er form of com­pas­sion that fur­ther illus­trates that the leader rec­og­nizes and appre­ci­ates a person’s sac­ri­fices, hard work and dedication.

4. See the Person Beneath the Employee

For lead­ers to under­stand their employee’s needs, they have to get to know each employ­ee as a per­son. So often, lead­ers for­get that their employ­ees are peo­ple with lives out­side of the office.

Lead­ers should take the time to ask about their employ­ees’ lives out­side of work. They should find ways to encour­age their after-work hob­bies and get a greater under­stand­ing of the employee’s per­son­al life. It’s not unusu­al for employ­ees to be under a moun­tain of stress at home with no out­let or support.

Pro­vid­ing a safe space for expres­sion is one of the most com­pas­sion­ate things a com­pa­ny can do. Plus, when a com­pa­ny encour­ages peo­ple to express them­selves hon­est­ly at work, it allows peo­ple to devel­op last­ing rela­tion­ships and true cama­raderie and sup­port with­in their team. 

5. Prioritize Well-Being 

A group of five people are doing yoga in a spacious, light-filled studio. They are all on gray yoga mats and in workout clothes while they are stretching.


Whether it’s pro­mot­ing a good work-life bal­ance, offer­ing com­pre­hen­sive well­ness ben­e­fits, pro­vid­ing on-site coun­sel­ing or more – orga­ni­za­tions and lead­ers who pri­or­i­tize their employ­ees’ well-being con­tin­ue to attract and retain top talent.

As the work­force con­tin­ues to evolve in response to the pan­dem­ic, employ­ees are burnt out while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly under severe pres­sure to con­tin­ue to per­form. Com­pas­sion­ate lead­ers find ways to ensure that their employ­ees get the rest, relax­ation and sup­port they need to stay healthy, hap­py and whole.

Lead­ers can pri­or­i­tize well-being by prac­tic­ing what they preach with clear bound­aries and appar­ent self-care. They can also be proac­tive and pro­mote manda­to­ry off-hours and breaks, pro­hib­it after-hour emails and offer com­pre­hen­sive and cus­tomized well­ness ben­e­fits.

Pro­vid­ing phys­i­cal and men­tal well­ness sup­port is one of the most com­pas­sion­ate things a leader can do since, in real­i­ty, com­pas­sion is all about rec­og­niz­ing and empathiz­ing with suf­fer­ing and offer­ing a solution.

Fostering Compassion in the Workplace

Com­pa­nies who want to reduce turnover and fos­ter com­pas­sion in the work­place should con­sid­er a lifestyle ben­e­fits plat­form like Fringe.

Fringe allows employ­ees to cus­tomize ben­e­fits to fit their unique needs and offers inno­v­a­tive ways for employ­ers to show grat­i­tude and pro­mote employ­ee well­ness in their orga­ni­za­tion. Talk to our team today and start inhibit­ing a com­pas­sion­ate work envi­ron­ment for your employees.