Compassion at the work place

An uncle of a colleague passed on earlier this week. It was an upsetting event and I passed her my condolences. The passing of a love and close one is always one of the hardest ordeal to overcome for anyone and words alone are insufficient to describe the feelings, and little can be said to comfort the other party. Sometimes, the strongest support that we can offer, is just to be around and let them know that we are.

Coincidentally, there was a company event that was to be held the next day. It was an after work event and this colleague has been drafted to help out. As one of the key members managing the event, I didn’t think that it might be appropriate for her to participate in the event, considering the events that were unfolding for her, and that it would be better that she was with her family, mourning the loss of her uncle.

I spoke with her and she was very professional about it. She mentioned that since she had already committed and that it was work, she will be made available. Moreover, the company is pretty short-handed, with quite a few in her department away on leave, and it is not easy to find someone to replace in such a short notice.

I was heartened by her professionalism but at the same time, felt that during times like this, it is when we show our compassion. I told her that I will speak with other colleagues to see whom might be available to help so that we can alleviate her off those duties on the event day. She was also willing to step down from the role should a replacement be found. Fortunately, I manage to find another colleague who was able to step into this, despite the last minute notice. Having said that, I think she also has other plans in place, but was happy to step in to help out after hearing the situation. Such is compassion.

I then spoke with their direct manager, hoping to gain her approval and understanding about the situation. The manager was initially, pretty surprised that I was asking her about it. Her initial reaction was rather knee-jack for me, ” It’s just the passing of an uncle….”

Whether it’s the passing of a direct family member such as a parent, or sibling, or even extended family members such as uncles and cousins, it doesn’t change the fact that they are going through the passing of a love one. Even if they might not be relatives, we would also want to mourn the loss of a close friends, or individuals that we have forged close bonds with.

Society can be a bit more compassionate. Bosses can be a bit more compassionate. Colleagues can be a bit more compassionate. Just because a situation doesn’t hit nor apply to you directly, it doesn’t mean that we should use the same yardstick for others.

A friend also anecdoted another situation to me at her workplace. Her workplace is a pretty fast-paced environment, but at the same time, there are also a lot of working mothers. Coincidentally, a lot of the managers there are also working mothers (albeit their kids might be older). I was exclaiming to my friend that I thought it’s great that the profile of the managers are as such, as they will be able to empathize what working mums go through, and be more understanding towards pregnant subordinates or even towards new mothers, or mothers with young kids. Well apparently, not so…. according to her. Empathy doesn’t exist there.

I would like to think that those are isolated cases. I tend to think that people are more able to empathise with another in a similar situation, if they have been through the same thing themselves. Having said that, my friend was pointing out that perhaps some of those “managers” never quite got the empathy that they wanted when they were going through the same thing then and as such,  didn’t think that they needed to provide that to their subordinates even though they are going through the same thing.

I don’t know about that…. she might be right.

But isn’t been empathetic and showing compassion what makes us human?

What do you guys think?


  1. At least pretend to care, that’s what I do. Pretend is better than ignoring or playing down.


    1. I guess you might be right. But I wonder if it might come across as pretentious?


  2. Wonderful piece, Kate! I say two wrongs don’t make a right.


    1. Thanks 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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