Embracing Compassionate Leadership During the Holiday Season

by | Dec 6, 2023

Compassionate leaders

As the holiday season approaches, you, as a leader, are presented with a unique opportunity to embody and promote compassion within your teams and organizations. While the festive spirit can bring joy and excitement, it can also be a challenging time for many. As a compassionate leader, navigating the delicate balance between productivity and empathy becomes crucial.  This is the heart of a Blue Fjord Leader. Keep reading to assess how you stack up as a compassionate leader during the holidays.

Understanding the Holiday Strain
It’s no surprise that research shows that the holiday season can be a source of stress for many. Balancing work commitments with personal obligations, financial pressures, and the anticipation of a new year can create a sense of overwhelm. For some, the holidays may be a reminder of loved ones who are not around. PTO days are going unused as Americans report a high level of stress at work. Nearly three in four (71 percent) workers feel tense or stressed during the workday, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Half (50 percent) of workers say lack of paid time off or sick leave causes very or somewhat significant stress at work. While you may not be able to “fix” these issues yourself, it helps to acknowledge personal challenges and to strive to create an environment that fosters understanding and support. All it takes is listening (without problem solving) and validating the employee’s feelings about the holiday season.

The Impact of Compassion on Employee Well-being

Studies have been conducted and books have been written that highlight the positive impact of compassionate leadership on employee well-being. For example, research from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business indicates that employees who perceive their leaders as compassionate are more likely to experience job satisfaction and organizational commitment. Plus, a compassionate leadership style has been linked to lower turnover rates and increased employee engagement. That’s the technical stuff. On a human level, we all want to work with a leader who demonstrates empathy and understanding anytime of the year, and particularly during the holidays.  This is the leader who enhances team morale, reduces stress levels, and promotes a sense of belonging. Wouldn’t you rather work for that leader?

Practical Strategies for Compassionate Leadership

  1. Flexible Scheduling: Remote work or flexible schedules can alleviate the pressure of balancing professional and personal commitments. An employee may need to pick up Aunt Bess at the airport or attend little Jose’s grade school holiday recital. This doesn’t mean letting deadlines slip but it may mean negotiating flexibility in how the job gets done.
  2. Express Gratitude: Take time to express gratitude for your team’s hard work in the past year. A simple note of appreciation or a team gathering goes a long way in boosting morale and a positive work culture. Make it fun. No project status updates. Just a time to be together and show gratitude.
  3. Open Communication: Create an open space for dialogue. Encourage team members to share their challenges during the holiday season. Being approachable and attentive to individual needs builds trust and strengthens your relationships. Don’t assume the holidays are a fun-filled family time. That’s not the case for everyone.
  4. Support Work-Life Balance: Emphasize the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Discourage excessive overtime and ensure that employees feel encouraged to take the time off they need to recharge. Talk about expectations for connectivity and responsiveness during the holiday season. Having clear expectations will alleviate stress.

Leading by Example

Compassionate leadership is not only about policies but also about leading by example. You can demonstrate a balance between empathy and productivity. Remember, you set the tone at the top. Yes, the research is clear that compassion creates a foundation for long-term success and organizational resilience. Compassionate leadership enhances the work environment and that feels good.

This holiday season, think about how you can embrace the power of compassionate leadership. Find ways to create a workplace where staff feel valued, supported, and inspired to bring their best selves to work. A Blue Fjord Leader knows that the best leaders are those who combine a practical, get-it-done ethic with an appreciation for the humans we all are. There is no better time than during the holidays to be a compassionate leader.

From all of us at Blue Fjord Leaders, we wish you a happy holiday season filled with gratitude for the privilege of leadership.


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Author Byline: Founder and CEO of Blue Fjord Leaders, Shelley Row P.E. CSP, was named by Inc. Magazine as one of the top 100 leadership speakers. Professional engineer and former senior executive, she was recognized as one of the best minds in advanced traffic management systems.

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