Compassion’s role in workplace culture - Activate World

Compassion’s role in workplace culture

Many business leaders are convinced that compassion has no place in the business world. Some managers think that showing too much kindness could be perceived as weakness, while others believe that pressure – not compassion – is the best way to keep employees productive. The reality is that compassion not only improves workplace culture, but it can also help a company’s bottom line.

Lunchtime conversations:

  • Compassion is an emotional response when perceiving suffering and involves an authentic desire to help. How have you showed compassion to a work colleague? What was their reaction to your compassion? How did it appear in the workplace? 
  • Intelligent Workplaces involve practices to improve work-life balance or influence office culture by creating new dynamics and introducing more fluidity to the working day. How can employers incorporate compassion into these new workplace paradigms? 
  • How can a culture of compassion and trust support bold risk-taking and breakthrough innovation in a competitive environment?  


  • Studies show that organizations in which compassion prevail, have employees with reduced stress and more job satisfaction. Additionally, workplace compassion also invites more loyalty, dedication, and employee engagement.
  • Google’s internal study, Project Aristotle, researched what made great teams. Focused on the idea ofpsychological safety, a concept first developed by Amy Edmondson of the Harvard Business School, they found that compassion and empathy facilitate teamwork by encouraging risk-taking and making it easy for everyone to have their say. 
  • CEOs and top executives must demonstrate compassion in their behavior, but also deliberately and mindfully cultivate the group norms that make compassion and empathy a reality—and not just words in a mission or values statement.


According to worker surveys, employees often feel disengagedand don’t believe their supervisors appreciate their talents and skills, understand the difficulties of their work, or care about their struggles.

In today’s business world, with short attention spans and the constant threat of disruptive change, efficiency is the goal. Spending time in the subjective world of emotions is considered a distraction. However, compassion doesn’t have to slow the pace. It can have the opposite effect. Cultivating compassion in companies is an upfront investment that pays off in the long run.

While many business leaders fear showing compassion encourages employees to take advantage of their graciousness, research shows the opposite is true. When leaders behave in a compassionate and cooperative manner, employees are more likely to reciprocate.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner is one of the leading voices in support of the importance of compassion in business, and he describes himself as a practitioner of compassionate management. He said it took him a while to appreciate the importance of compassion, and he credits the Dalai Lama’s book The Art of Happiness for this insight.

“The long-term value of a company is based on the speed and quality of its decision-making,” Weiner says. He credits the compassionate ethos of LinkedIn with its ability to “make important decisions in minutes or hours that some companies debate for months.” Compassion engenders trust, which in turn facilitates ease of communication and decision-making.

We need to move beyond the outdated notion that compassion is expendable. Evolved business leaders realize that superior organizational culture comes down to qualities that cannot be quantified, but whose importance cannot be overestimated. The role of compassionate leadership should be eagerly and unapologetically embraced.

Sources:  ForbesForbes, Greater Good MagazinePositive Psychology

Photo by Caleb Gregory on Unsplash