Why Compassion for Colleagues Matters


Reading the word “workplace” may promote thoughts about personal growth, stressful situations, or maybe negative associations with colleagues. That is not uncommon since many employees may experience negative feelings about work, and often, it is due to interaction with colleagues.

Despite the prevalence of negative interactions in some work environments, it is crucial to understand the power of compassion as a counterforce that can transform workplace dynamics and improve overall well-being.

This article will delve into the significance of compassion for work colleagues, its benefits, and practical ways to cultivate it.

Workplace compassion: definition and components 

Compassion is an emotion against sufferings, either of own or of others. As this emotional reaction emerges due to distress, hence it may exist in settings with interpersonal interactions, such as the workplace.

According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, more than 1 in 5 workers (22%) have experienced harm to their mental health at work, and up to 22% of workers experienced harassment at work in the past 12 months in 2022. 

In the end, this took a toll on workers’ mental health. One of the respondents in the survey suggested, “Make the work environment better by limiting toxic people and everyone being treated with kindness and respect.” This perfectly encapsulates workplace compassion, which is the key to a better workplace.

 Workplace compassion is the psychological state of an individual in response to pain and suffering. It displays a focus on sufferings and being kind to colleagues’ failure. When there is workplace compassion, it can lead to a positive impact on yourself, your colleagues, or even the company itself. 

Compassion for work colleagues comprises three phases

  1. noticing the pain of others, 
  2. emotionally connecting with others’ pain, 
  3. and taking steps to minimize the pain. 

When a person notices that their colleague is in distress, it brings awareness, which is the initial step of compassion.

Subsequently, compassion continues with emotionally connecting to colleagues who are in distress. This step includes perspective-taking, where one may enquire about the situation and show empathetic concern.

Lastly, a person shows actions in response to others’ pain to lessen, alleviate, or make it more bearable. It may be expressed by emotional support, material goods, or granting flexibility

Differences between empathy, sympathy, and compassion 

Sympathy, empathy, and compassion are often used interchangeably. The term sympathy is often expressed by a feeling of pity or sorry for the other person. 

However, empathy is a more complex construct that includes individuals’ deep awareness. It is based on two types which are cognitive empathy (understanding a distressing situation) and affective empathy (understanding the feeling of the person).

Lastly, compassion is a way to develop kindness and take the actions needed to promote the well-being of oneself and others. 

Hence, empathy involves the ability to truly understand and experience the emotions of others, while sympathy is a one-sided feeling of pity, and compassion involves both feeling sympathy and a desire to reduce the pain of others. 

Benefits of compassion in the workplace

Cultivating compassion towards work colleagues might be the key to unlocking a more harmonious and productive workplace. 

While business success has traditionally been associated with competitiveness and individual achievement, a growing body of research suggests that incorporating compassion into professional lives may yield remarkable benefits. Here are the following:

Better well-being

A meta-analysis report that involved 58 research studies, including 19,000 people in 15 countries, shows that individuals who feel more connected with their colleagues have better physical health and happiness and are less likely to burn out.

It happens because when individuals treat their colleagues well, it enhances camaraderie. This sense of belonging, in the end, is linked to health and well-being in various ways, such as promoting resilience and better coping mechanisms. 

Moreover, it also reduces loneliness and the tendency for depression, which have a crucial impact on individuals’ physical health. 

Enhanced creative behavior and psychological safety

Compassion for colleagues may promote workplace friendship. Workplace friendship has been proven to boost a sense of belonging and support. Hence, keeping a high level of psychological safety, which is the risk and cost of unsuccessful innovative behavior, can be reduced, and individuals have a higher tendency to develop creative behavior.

Thus, compassion may enhance friendship at work, motivating them to present innovative ideas and ways of working. Moreover, friendships are also a source of support in the workplace, as friends use each other to solve problems and discuss options. 

Improved mental health in colleagues’ children

Other than enhancing your well-being, creative behavior, and psychological safety. Practicing compassion to work colleagues may also enhance the mental health of your colleagues’ children.

One study found that women who experienced rude, disrespectful, and impoliteness in the workplace are more likely to engage in stricter, more authoritarian parenting practices that can have a negative impact on their children. The authoritarian parenting style may result in children’s aggressive behavior, difficulty in social situations, depression, and anxiety. 

Practical ways to cultivate compassion at work

Implementing compassion for work colleagues creates a more empathetic and supportive work environment. Some research also shows practical and actionable strategies that can help individuals weave compassion seamlessly into their work lives, fostering a culture of understanding, kindness, and collaboration. Here are some ways how you can cultivate compassion at work:

Being a good listener

Listening is one of the key skills in the workplace. It is important for ensuring communication and developing positive relationships. Also, since noticing the pain of others and emotionally connecting with others’ pain is crucial for workplace compassion, being a good listener is essential.

In order to be a good listener, individuals may try to expand ideas, capabilities, or insights that the speakers stated. Moreover, being a good listener is also expressed by showing genuine interest in what the speaker saying or even simply being present to have tough discussions. If applicable, individuals may also implement the feedback offered by the speaker. 

Conducting random acts of kindness

In a meta-analysis of 201 independent studies, researchers found that random acts of kindness, such as leaving positive notes that express gratitude on colleagues’ desks, were more strongly associated with overall well-being than formal prosocial behavior, such as routine volunteering.

It happens since informal helping is more casual and spontaneous and more easily promotes social connections. Furthermore, informal kindness is more varied and less likely to become stale or monotonous. 

Giving assistance, if needed 

One may think that being proactive in giving help can be useful. However, in a study involving 54 employees between the ages of 21 and 60 in a variety of industries, such as manufacturing, government, health, and education, researchers found that colleagues who are constantly coming up and asking if they need help could promote negative impact on the recipient’s esteem and become frustrating.

Hence, giving help is better to be done when your work colleagues actually requested for it. The helper receives gratitude from the receiver and will be more motivated at work. Whereas, the receiver will actually get the help they need. 

In conclusion

Compassion for work colleagues is important since it enhances one’s well-being and innovative behavior. The positive impact of compassion may also extend to the families of colleagues.

Hence, promoting compassion in the workplace is mutually beneficial. By implementing active listening, giving assistance if needed, and conducting acts of kindness, individuals can develop a workplace culture that prioritizes understanding, empathy, and collaboration.

To create a workplace where everyone feels valued, supported, and inspired to bring their best selves, ultimately leading to greater job satisfaction and organizational success. 

If you would like to see more resources on work colleagues, check out the Personal Science Labs. The lab uses the research of the Institute for Life Management Science to produce courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other tools. Visit the Personal Science Labs today.

personal science labs

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.