How to Be a Compassionate Employer Without Crossing the Line

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There are as many approaches to managing employees as there are managers. But perhaps the best way to earn the respect of your employees, and motivate optimal productivity among them, is to show workplace compassion.

Millennials, for example, often get a bad rap for being selfish. Contrary to that stigma, studies show that Millennials are just as motivated by a sense of purpose as any other demographic. Where they are disproportionate, however, is in their collective desire to work for companies that give back. That means, compassion.

But going too far in the direction of compassion, can invite problems.

This is not about being best friends with your subordinates. This means showing sympathy and concern for others. In the workplace, that requires discipline – lest your good intentions be potentially interpreted as harassment.

One approach is to run a tight ship in the context of offering your employees support. This can be a balanced policy and a way to create a healthy distance, maintain authority and protect yourself from accusations of crossing personal lines. Offering additional leave for genuine emergencies, “comp” time for those who go above and beyond the call of duty, and being available to listen to employee concerns are all excellent ways to be compassionately engaged without going too far.

Other strategies include: Setting strict office hours. Telling workers immediately when their conversations or actions are no longer appropriate. Politely declining invitations to employee after-hours social functions. Communicating clear expectations, and reiterating them often. Always phrasing directives in terms of what is best for the company.

Expressing genuine interest in an employee’s well-being and professional development, while providing support for inevitable life events – such as an illness, a child’s graduation, weddings and funerals – can make for high employee retention. This can mean your employees will be less likely to leave once you’ve invested in them. Loyal workers are also more likely to go the extra mile when they know you’re going the extra mile for them.

This entire conversation revolves around boundaries. You can care about your employees within the business and setting healthy boundaries isn’t impersonal. It’s smart. When properly maintained they create productive workplace social dynamics and provide employers the ability to help those who devote significant chunks of their time and energy to increasing your bottom line. If you are an employer who needs advice on this topic or is facing a challenge, do not wait to contact a member of our experienced legal team.