The role of empathy, compassion, and kindness in work relationships

Published on March 27, 2023
Last modified on March 19, 2024

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

In today's highly competitive and practical work environment, it's easy to forget about the importance of empathy, compassion, and kindness in work relationships. However, these qualities are not only good for building strong relationships with colleagues, they also play a crucial role in improving employee satisfaction, engagement, and productivity (Dutton et al., 2014).

Let's take a closer look at each of these qualities and how they contribute to creating a better work environment:


Empathy helps build trust, foster open communication, and create a sense of community in the workplace. For example, when employees feel recognized, they are more likely to be motivated, engaged, and committed to their work. Showing empathy can be as simple as saying encouraging words or giving advice. Although some people refuse to discuss their personal affairs, showing your interest is highly appreciated. 


Compassion involves feeling genuine concern and care for others, and taking action to help them when they need it. This may be expressed by offering support to a colleague who is struggling with a project, checking in on someone who's going through a difficult time, or simply being present when someone needs to talk. 

Compassion can foster a sense of belonging and strengthen the bonds between colleagues. When people feel cared for and supported, they are more likely to feel invested in their work and motivated to contribute to the team's success.


Kindness can be seen in different forms. It can be practiced by offering a coffee run for your team or assisting a new employee to settle in their role. Doing simple favors when they need an extra hand also counts. Kindness can be anything under the sun.

Ways to show empathy, compassion, and kindness 

1. Pay attention to small details. 

People appreciate it when you recall details about them. It can be as simple as remembering names, knowing their preferred pronouns, or noticing their typical gestures. You can also ask for life updates about their family, recent hobbies, or even recent struggles. Helpful tip: make it casual and avoid intriguing questions. By making these things a habit, we can show enthusiasm in making connections besides work.

2. Clarify things before jumping to conclusions. 

When someone's work performance isn't up to par, it's tempting to assume the worst. But before we judge, let's take a moment to understand their situation. Are they having a hard time at work or personal life? Either way, maybe try to approach them first. 

It's normal to go through tough times, but it's important to know how to respond. While we shouldn't necessarily interfere in their personal matters, we can offer encouragement and support to help lift their spirits. 

3. Lend a hand in challenging situations. 

Life can throw unexpected curveballs that can leave us feeling lost and unsure. Sadly, these curveballs can affect our decision-making skills, particularly in case of emergencies. That’s why we should create extra room for patience and understanding. If you can lend a hand, don't hesitate to extend. Help has no bounds, be it financially or emotionally.

4. Encourage open dialogues. 

There are different platforms you can use to stay connected and updated. Some companies even include social media platforms through group pages or chats. But aside from creating these platforms, how companies encourage open dialogues is more important. Are your organization heads approachable? How do they handle suggestions and feedback?

Here at 1902 Software, for example, we have recently created an anonymous feedback form that doesn't collect email addresses or other identifying information. After receiving submissions, our team will evaluate every single suggestion and discuss if we can reasonably implement them. We believe every company has a unique approach, so choose whatever works best for you and coworkers.

Why do workplace empathy, compassion, and kindness matter?

In professional well-being

Offering simple words of affirmation helps spark fulfillment and job satisfaction. At the same time, discussing honest feedback from colleagues, immediate supervisors, or higher positions helps employees know which aspects of their work should be improved and retained. 

In personal well-being

Empathy, compassion, and kindness in the workplace contribute to sustained motivation and interest. The sense of validation, whether a person needs improvement or has been successful in a task, reduces confusion. Moreover, it can fuel their dedication to do better at work. 

In the organization

Aside from professional and personal well-being, your organization also benefits from these practices:

1. Everything is well-coordinated

A sense of empowerment drives every team member to achieve greater things. As a result, tasks and projects are planned, and subsequently carried out, with seamless efficiency. Moreover, with a culture of open communication and willingness to hear suggestions, they are more able to work together like a well-oiled machine.

2. Minimized delays and errors in task completion

When people face issues and frustrations, some refuse to seek help. The reasons may include their shyness or fear of causing inconvenience. Worst-case, this can eventually lead to delays and errors. However, this can be the opposite if we lift this negative mindset with empathy, compassion, and kindness. Everyone in the office will be encouraged to ask and understand the value of being a team player.  

3. Lower employee turnover

Empathy, compassion, and kindness may prevent employees from quitting. As confirmed by 2021 Achievers Workforce Institute’s statistics, 21% of employees stay because of recognition and 19% due to good work relationships. While there are other factors that affect employee turnover, positive reinforcement from the environment can at least contribute to reducing it.   

4. Reduced financial and resource losses

Aside from having a caring and supportive environment, it can also protect the company from losing finances and resources, such as by having lower employee turnover rates, and having a more efficient and effective workflow. 

Subtle yet critical

Empathy, compassion, and kindness may be considered subtle details to focus on. Yet, these are critical in maintaining a positive working environment, and in turn attract potential talents and clients in the long run. Therefore, a certified win-win for you and your organization. 


Peter Skouhus

Peter Skouhus

A Danish entrepreneur who owns 1902 Software Development, an IT company in the Philippines where he has lived since 1998. Peter has extensive experience in the business side of IT development, strategic IT management, and sales.