President’s Message – September 2017

Compassion in HR

Perhaps you were attracted to Human Resources because you liked helping people. That was a big part of my decision to plunge into the profession. I find it highly satisfying to help solve problems and ease employees’ pains. As HR professionals, we are often involved in tough situations that trigger feelings of empathy and in extreme cases vicarious pain.

While our job is to take care of the human resources in our organizations, our humanness often drives us to become compassionate. We need to be mindful not to become too emotionally involved in employee problems, which admittedly is challenging.

For HR professionals, too much emotional involvement in employee problems can chew up time, drain energy and increase stress. A recent study by Towers Watson found stress to be the number one workforce health issue over other issues such as physical inactivity or obesity. A portion of that stress stems from too much emotional involvement with employee problems. Becoming emotionally hooked on solving these problems also makes us less valuable to the executive team who looks for us to be a strategic player.

The goal is to be receptive and compassionate to employees’ feelings without adopting those feelings as our own. Use the following tips offered in a 2015 Business Management Daily publication to maintain emotional distance while remaining effective:

  1. Keep your door open and let employees know you will listen, but…remind them that you can’t fix all their problems.
  2. Delivering bad news? Don’t take it personally. Explain the bad news from the business perspective.
  3. Empower managers to trouble-shoot employee problems.
  4. Set aside time each day to work without interruptions. Shut your door, if you’re lucky enough to have one these days! Spend time on HR issues that don’t stroke your empathy. Direct employees to your intranet site for basic forms, benefits, or policy information.
  5. Delegate when possible.
  6. Cut the cord between work and home. Don’t carry home feelings of guilt because you can’t help solve every employee’s problem. Remember, you’re the HR person, not their psychiatrist.


Now that you have some tips to keep emotional distance, here are a few thoughts on how HR Professionals can make the lives of employees better:

  1. Agree to receive a helpless employee’s call.
  2. Reach out to an employee and tell him/her that he/she has done a fabulous job.
  3. Take time out to catch up personally with an employee who is struggling to blend into the new job or culture.
  4. Educate an employee on what they need to know for an impending leave of absence.
  5. Help a new employee get through the learning curve.
  6. Treat job candidates well, even the ones we reject.

If you have ideas or comments that you would like to share on this topic, please contact me at

With Gratitude,

Jeff Esraelian, Chapter President

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