top of page

How to Cultivate Compassion in the Workplace: 4 Mindful Strategies

Written by Kayla Reetz, Trauma Supports Director & Kids Yoga + Mindfulness Instructor

A recent C2C all-staff meeting: When workspaces invest in the currency of time and connection for their employees they are rewarded tenfold.

"How can we show compassion for people who may frustrate, annoy, and aggravate us every day?" ~ Kayla Reetz

Hello Compassion Compatriots!

As mentioned in my previous blogs, compassion is a gift—one freely bestowed upon others and one we should extend to ourselves as well.

Today’s blog is about compassion in a place where it might be the most difficult: the workplace. But how can we do that? 

Every workplace is different not only in its purpose and goals but also in its individuals and culture.  It can be very difficult to show compassion to the people who we may spend more time with than our own families - our co-workers!

How do we extend compassion to those who consistently frustrate, annoy, or aggravate us? We all likely have someone in mind who fits that description. It's tough, I get it.

Practicing compassion in these situations can be even more challenging than recognizing the need for it. Many of us have experienced moments where we've supported others without receiving similar support in return, witnessed others receiving credit for work they didn't solely accomplish, and felt burnt out, frustrated, or less motivated as a result. In this state of exhaustion, it's easy to start comparing others' successes to our perceived failures.

If you are trying to show and share compassion for the first time in the workplace, this may be very difficult.  Like Brené Brown talks about in an interview on compassion, compassion takes work.  It takes the recognition of yourself and how you want to interact with the world around you.  And when faced with that for the first time, it can be pretty scary, so it also takes cultivating.

But, believe it or not, it can actually be fun!

Enjoying a free coffee at a recent staff meeting (since coffee makes everything better!)

When employees feel supported and valued, they are more likely to remain loyal to the organization. Compassionate leaders and coworkers build trust and loyalty, reducing turnover rates and preserving institutional knowledge.

Here at Challenge to Change, Inc., you may have seen blogs from our CEO, Molly, about a practice known as Corporate Kindness.  And I am going to talk about that again here because it is an excellent, easy way to show compassion to others in the workplace.  We have something called “Kindness Grams” that are encouraged to make an intentional practice for all of us “Changemakers”. 

Colleagues express kindness by writing notes of gratitude, recognition, or validation to each other. While receiving a postcard might not hold much significance for some, a handwritten and personalized note can carry considerable weight. These words help us become more aware of each other's actions and appreciate the gifts we bring. Additionally, there's a practice called a "Kindness Ninja" where a small, personalized gift is given based on the recipient's preferences, often arriving unexpectedly and without any strings attached. This gesture frequently sparks gratitude, fostering teamwork, camaraderie, and partnership among colleagues.

An example of a C2C Kindness Gram

An author I would like to reference here is one you may have seen in the education world: Hamish Brewer.  A native New Zealander, Hamish was a principal in the American public school system who currently devotes his time to the culture within schools.  He knows from personal experience the way adults interact within a school system directly affects the way students interact with each other. 

Something he promotes in his book, Relentless, is the bucket method.  Similar to kindness grams, teachers take a few moments to write a note to each other expressing what they noticed in their colleagues.  There is also the opportunity to gather once a week and discuss or simply give recognition where it’s due- something integral to changing the culture or climate of a workplace.

Compassion in the Workplace: 4 Mindful Strategies

Something similar may work in your workplace and it may not. But those are not the only ways compassion can be given in the workplace.  In smaller terms, compassion doesn’t have to be as grand a gesture as a note or small gift.  It can also be an admission of gratitude for having your back.  It can be as simple as asking “How can I help?” when a colleague is not performing to their fullest potential.

This is where practicing compassion on and for yourself can be so important. The following are ways you can practice compassion in the workplace, but are not limited to those listed.  

1. Metta Meditation

Metta is a great start to showing yourself compassion while also practicing compassion for others and the people that can sometimes be hard to be around.  This 6-minute mindfulness exercise can be a great way to reset from a difficult conversation or prepare for a meeting of emotional exertion. We teach this to our students as well!

2. Mindful Breaths

Breath practices are another great way to regain compassion as well as model compassion for others.  A personal favorite of mine is Gratitude Breath. Similar to Anchor Breathing, Gratitude Breath starts by placing hands on the knees and, with each breath, you determine something you are grateful for.  These can be anything and everything- work related or not. When you feel you are ready to flip the script, allow yourself to think of things you are grateful for at work or for a specific person at work.  Feel free to include what gifts you receive from work (like payday!) or even valued skills or experiences. As you connect these thoughts to your breath, pay attention to how you feel, simply noticing the body.

3. Asking for and Receiving Constructive Criticism

Did you notice this one doesn’t say Giving? It is so hard to ask for help sometimes and equally hard to allow that help to change our initial ideas.  However, in order to grow, we must be open through the compassionate nature of active listening.  Yes, active listening.  An example situation where we put this compassion in action at work is when we ask for help and receive constructive criticism.  When we ask someone for help, what we are doing is saying “I see the gift you have in problem solving/seeing things in a different way than me, and I would like to consider your thoughts on this before sharing it with the world.” And compassion can happen through the constructive conversation that follows.  Now, it doesn’t mean you have to agree or even change anything, but opening up to a compassionate and honest conversation can be a great opportunity for two people to practice compassion.

4. Engaging in Presence

Not everyone has a great day every day at the office.  Some days are extremely difficult and some days a little easier with hopefully great days sprinkled in.  When someone practices presence, it is more than just a matter of attendance. 

Presence is a gift of compassion where someone actively listens to someone else.  This listening can be about troubles and triumphs,  daily life events, or even work situations and events. 

It’s also important to note that feedback isn’t about “solving” things for others, but reminding others they are not alone in their experiences.  Practicing compassion through being present can speak volumes through the tough days and help to foster connection, mutual growth, belonging, and teamwork within a group or workplace.

Oftentimes, this opportunity to practice is during transitions or “down time” like lunch breaks, breaks, etc. When practicing, the listener is following the conversation, giving feedback, and engaging through body language, vocal tone, and facial expressions.  

It is my hope that something you read today sparks a change for you in the practice of compassion at the workplace. If you are an employer interested in furthering this change in engagement and culture for your workplace, please ask about our Corporate Kindness Retreats. They can be as small as an hour or two lunch and learn, or a half or even full-day retreat!  Simply reach out to Molly Schreiber, our founder and CEO at


8 views0 comments


bottom of page