March 2, 2017
“Lean on Me” - Compassion at Work

As someone who focuses on developing and evolving culture for a living, the concept of compassion is one that often surfaces.  When I entered the business world in the 90s, I faced a unique challenge as someone who was building passion and strength in a topic that very few people took interest in. As well as trying to educate that its significance to culture is more about strategy, and not about “kumbaya,” made it even more difficult.  Enter “soft” topics of things like compassion and empathy at work...and you get laughed out of the room.

Especially as a young 20-something woman trying to make the case.

Zoom ahead.  We live in divided times right now.  While an individual’s zest to “get ahead” might still be a big career focus, the way in which we go about doing that in today’s world is different.  While not completely gone, people are no longer rewarded for cut-throat behavior.  Rather, individuals are celebrated for strong leadership and the ability to collaborate well – in addition to doing impactful work.

Enter compassion. Creating a more kind work environment doesn’t just make for happier people. It just may have profound effects on morale, productivity and your bottom line.  Compassion is about a sincere desire to aid others. When we lead, and work this way, we raise the entire team up. Bonds are strengthened, trust is established, and collaboration becomes intentional. In addition, we see a stronger ability to take risks and learn from failures, as well as less of a focus on competition with each other. 

Bottom line:  when we treat our co-workers with compassion, we fortify the entire team.  That’s not the “soft stuff.” Rather it’s just smart business.

So how can you build a more compassionate workplace without losing your edge? Read on.


One of the side benefits of working with others is the connections and relationships we can build with people who share a common goal and/or interest.  Don’t enter an elevator or enter a room without a smile or hello to a colleague.  Don’t know them?  Introduce yourself.  You don’t need to be super outgoing; a simple, “Hi, my name is Christina.  I don’t think we’ve met yet…” goes a long way as a starting point. Finding ways to share a meal, do volunteer work together, or other non-work related activities are unassuming ways to get to know people and build relationships as well.


At my company, we respect people who have a “grab a shovel” mentality. Namely, no matter how strong you might be, we all need a helping hand sometimes. Yes, sometimes it’s hard to ask for help.  Instead, be a proactive colleague.  See a co-worker hitting a roadblock, under a tight deadline or needing a helping hand? A simple “can I help you in any way” is always appreciated. 


It doesn’t matter how exceptional you are at your job; you won’t always have the right answers on your own.  Fostering an environment of brainstorming, evolving vision and goals and playing a role in how to execute are smart ways to develop a more collaborative team environment. 

Added bonus:  you just might discover a better outcome.


Some people adore public recognition.  Others prefer a more subtle acknowledgment for a job well done.  Know what each member of your team values, and take the time to celebrate people for their strengths and accomplishments.  Bonus points if you can find a way to create learning moments from their missteps as well.  Knowledge can always be found in failure if you choose to view it that way. 


Think before you speak and act.  Treat and interact with your co-workers as you wish to be treated.  When you approach people with integrity and a positive attitude, it ripples through the greater group.  Seek to model open dialogue, and a sincere interest in what your team members must contribute.  The goal is to create an environment of motivation and collaboration all geared towards bringing out the best possible work in people.

Fostering a more compassionate workplace isn’t the path to losing your competitive edge.  Rather, you are investing energy in building high performing teams, enhancing your corporate culture and ultimately strengthening your financials. 

Nothing “soft” about that. 

Christina Luconi is Chief People Officer for Rapid7. Follow her on Twitter: @peopleinnovator

Images courtesy of Unsplash.