Compassion at work is often seen as a sign of weakness. But in reality, it can be a much more effective managerial tactic than toughness.

In the modern world, people have been conditioned to believe that success is determined by how tough you are. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Leading in management and the workforce is more than just being tough – it’s about understanding and empathizing with your employees.

When you empower your employees by using compassion, you remove obstacles that impede their progress. Research has shown that compassionate leaders are more effective and productive than those who rely solely on toughness. According to an article by Emma Seppala of the Harvard Business Review, employees whose bosses express compassion not only feel valued and respected, but they’re also less likely to suffer from stress and burnout.

In this article, we’ll take a look at why compassion is an important tactic for managers, the benefits that come with it, and some ways you can use compassion to better your management skills.

The definition of compassion

Compassion is defined as a “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”

While this may sound similar to having sympathy for another person, there are some distinct differences. For example, a compassionate person feels the other person’s pain and seeks to help them resolve or improve their situation. With sympathy, you acknowledge that the other person has been hurt, but don’t have any intention of mending their situation. In addition, sympathy can come from personal experience of being in pain yourself while compassion comes from understanding someone else’s feeling better than they do themselves.

Why is compassion at work important?

In a collaborative work environment, compassion can make you more approachable and relatable to those around you. Employees who feel as if their superiors understand them are more likely to be productive individuals. They’ll have a drive for helping the company succeed that goes beyond just doing their individual jobs.

In order to be an effective leader, one must possess emotional intelligence. It’s the ability to identify and manage both your own emotions as well as those of others. Because it takes emotional intelligence to empathize with another person’s feelings, having compassion is necessary for effectively coaching employees. Additionally, it strengthens the overall production of your company.

 Compassionate leaders vs. Tough managers

A lot of people believe that in order to be an effective leader or manager, you have to intimidate or scare your followers into doing what you want them to do. However, this is not the only way to influence people.

Bosses who use compassion as a managerial tactic inspire those under them by agreeing with or understanding their concerns and working alongside them. They foster trust and respect among those they manage, which ultimately enables those employees to work optimally. In addition, compassionate leaders understand that if an employee isn’t motivated or happy then they won’t be productive – so they go out of their way to resolve problems before they start.

On the other hand, tough managers intimidate their employees by demanding results and enforcing strict rules. They often believe that those they manage should be self-motivated and fear any type of punishment.

Another difference between compassionate managers and tough bosses is that compassion inspires others to be motivated by positivity, not fear. This means your employees want to work for you because they respect you and understand what it is you’re trying to accomplish together. Additionally, this communicates that the team has the same goal. This heightens everyone’s commitment to doing their part efficiently.

Compassion at Work as a Managerial Tactic

The research on the matter is clear: compassion as a managerial tactic is more effective than toughness. The benefits of compassionate leadership include:

  • Reduced stress – Employees who feel valued and respected by their managers don’t experience as much stress, burnout, or fatigue at work. This means that less people will call in sick to escape from working under a tough manager and employees won’t dread going to work every day.
  • Increased teamwork – When an employee feels listened to and understood by their manager, they are more likely to participate with others around them. As a result, this can build a strong foundation of respect and collaboration among the team. This will help with morale, which in turn can make employees feel more empowered to do their jobs well.
  • Workplace satisfaction – Employees whose managers treat them with compassion are more satisfied in their roles because they know they’re being heard and considered. Providing a secure working environment makes people happier on all levels of life, not just at work.
  • Higher productivity – Compassionate managers are more effective at their jobs, which is why their employees tend to be more productive when they work under such leadership. A manager who understands and values the opinions of his or her employees will increase morale and therefore lead to an enhanced society within the company.

Seek Influence. Not Authority.

Employees want a compassionate manager because it can make them feel like they matter in the workplace. If you’re looking for ways in which your attitude and compassion at work could benefit everyone, it’s best to start working with others instead of trying to manage on your own. Show empathy towards every individual. Whether they report directly to you or not by being mindful of each person around you.

One challenge that can arise is that it’s easy for compassionate leaders to let their feelings overwhelm them. Likewise, they turn into anger on occasion. The key to avoiding this is by recognizing that you are likely to encounter stressful situations on the job at one point or another. By planning ahead, you can help ensure that your employees feel safe and respected even when tough decisions need to be made.


What types of managers are likely to use compassion as a tactic?

Compassionate leaders are people-focused managers who have a caring concern for others and what happens to them. These types of managers are focused on employee satisfaction and work ethic. They don’t micromanage their employees; instead, they take the time to give employees their opinions and leave them alone. Compassionate leaders tend to be open-door policy managers who like having casual conversations with their teams.

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

Richard Branson – CEO of Virgin Group

Richard Branson is a great example of a compassionate leader. He has always emphasized that the employees are the ones who are actually doing all of the work to make his company successful, not him alone. His employees seem very satisfied with their working environment. They also appreciate having a boss who listens to them instead of micromanaging them.

5 Tips on How to Show Compassion at Work

Here are five tips for compassionate leaders who want to use management techniques that will work in their favor:

1. Make the time to listen

Managers who are more empathetic spend more time listening to their employees than those who aren’t. It might seem counterintuitive, but remember that you don’t always have to say something for your message to be received. Keep an open mind about what they have to say. Even if you don’t agree with them. your employees that you understand their point of view.

2. Emphasize the positives

Rather than dwelling on negative issues, try focusing on what went right. Your employees will appreciate knowing that you’re trying to see the bigger picture. One way to emphasize the positives is to keep a journal of things that went well each day. This can not only give you a better perspective on your own work, but it can also show your employees that you’re taking an interest in their success. Additionally, try giving positive feedback more often than negative feedback. This will help your employees feel appreciated and supported, which can lead to higher morale and productivity.

3. Find common ground

Find out what your employees care about and work together with them to achieve that goal. For example, if you’re a manager at a tech company where most of the team enjoys gaming, work something fun into the schedule every now and then. This will help you bond over shared interests and make positive memories that your employees will look forward to.

4. Use your power to help others

You have a certain amount of power as a manager which can be used to help those around you. Look for little ways you can use your authority as an ally rather than as a barrier between yourself and those around you. If an employee is stressed out or overwhelmed by work, see if there’s anything you can do. Even on the smallest scale to relieve some of their stress. Make them more productive workers in return. For example, managers might offer employees additional time off, flexible working hours, or share useful resources the employees might not otherwise have access to.

5. Practice mindfulness

Be aware of what is going on around you and how others are feeling without letting yourself get too overwhelmed or stressed out by it all. Too often we get wrapped up in our own work and problems that we forget to take a step back and see how others might be feeling. This can make your employees feel that you care about their feelings, which makes them more likely to trust and respect you.