Compassion As A HR Skill? (The HR Hangover Follow Up)


March 2, 2010

When I heard that Mark Bennett at TalentedApps planned to host the March 3rd HR Carnival I was excited.  When I heard it was going to have a HR Hangover theme, I was even happier because I had just written a post on that very topic.  But, Mark was kind enough to link to that post in his call for contributions, so I knew I needed to write something new for him.

I had such fun writing the scenerio in my original ‘HR Hangover’ post, so be sure to check it out (and the comments from readers) if you haven’t yet.  And, while I’m certain all those things would not be presented to a HR manager all at once, it is certainly conceivable that they could all occur within a week.  It just proves the diversity of situations a HR generalist needs to be prepared for.  Some of the key skills needed to be successful in HR are:

  • ability to quickly and accurately assess a situation
  • ability to prioritize for maximum effectiveness
  • having a clear understanding of employment laws and regulations
  • ability to apply the knowledge in a sincere and compassionate way

Now, I’m sure there are people who will disagree with my thinking that sincerity and compassion are key skills or abilities that lead to success in HR.  They may be right.  But, I would argue that having those characteristics gives the HR pro the opportunity to be more successful in HR because it encourages employees and leaders to build a stronger relationship with you.

What do you think?  If you work in HR, do you incorporate compassion into your interaction with leaders and employees?  If you’re an employee, do you value a HR pro who treats you with compassion?  Tell me in the comments.


  • Interesting thoughts. I’m not sure I would necessarily say that I believe compassion is a skill that an HR person should demonstrate, but maybe I am getting hung up on the words?

    For me compassion has a sense of a feeling of sympathy. On the other hand I would say that empathy is crucial for any HR pro. If you cannot see things from others viewpoint and empathise with how they might be feeling, then you will neither be effective nor productive…..nor liked!

  • I am an HR Professional and while I feel compassion is an important trait, it should be used sparingly. For instance, if dealing with conflict resolution and employee relations, HR has the responsibility to be astute enough to deal with ambiguity and be objective. Too much compassion will cloud this type of situation and I feel a better trait for HR professionals to have in a business environment is empathy.

  • Back in January, I launched the blogtalkradio show Compassionate HR It is my vision to feature HR professionals that go above and beyond the call of duty to practice the principles of steward leadership, generosity, and corporate philanthropy. This passion of mine has extended to something I started two weeks ago called #HireFriday on twitter. My goals are simple, help everyone I know who’s looking for a job get hired, and tell the stories of the HR Professionals who are doing good deeds. Compassion is an integral part of human resources. It puts the human relations back into our human interactions. Every day, we face the problems and traumas of our employees, and employers a like. If we are not compassionate in the way we address those problems, what are we? Are we not on the firing line? Do we not cope daily with the dilemmas of our constituents? If you answer yes to the above questions, I posit that indeed compassion is not a gushy, gooey response–it’s a badly needed communication strategy. Compassionate HR doesn’t suggest that the practitioner should be wimpy. Quite the contrary. Compassionate HR means facing problems head on in a direct and open way. It means delivering bad news sometimes, but it also means delivering that bad news in a way that the employee’s self esteem isn’t ground into a fine pulp.

    Compassionate HR means being assertive, not aggressive. It means being stalwart, yet kind. It is in this way that we give freely of what we have, and become better people at the same time.

    Thank you for this thoughtful post.


    @HRMargo Margo Rose

  • I agree fully with Kimberly here. As compassion can help you relate to the employees and assist them on their level, too much can be taken to their level. HR staff needs to continue to work and operate with a corporate professional stand point, and sometimes compassion can begin to cloud our corporate responsibility. Although I do realize that every human being needs to show compassion to the next in order to even begin to understand and work with each other.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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