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Compassion Fatigue

Human Resources means many different things to different people. This is normally reflected in the role of HR professionals in your organisation, one title takes on a range of different mostly difficult tasks. Including resolving disputes, addressing concerns and complaints, liaising between employees and management, and disciplining misconduct. All of these tasks require empathy, patience, understanding, emotional intelligence, as the people at the centre of the issue look to us for support and guidance.

Compassion is required to share the individual's pain or suffering and that can take its toll over a long period of time. I’m sure you’ve experienced some individual pain for an intense period. It can leave you feeling burnt out. Over time even the most compassionate person can suffer from compassion fatigue, where their capacity for empathising with others is diminished.

Compassion fatigue is similar to burnout, in that both states leave people feeling exhausted, disengaged, and sometimes irritable, but compassion fatigue is a kind of burnout that arises specifically from the stress of managing one’s emotions in response to other people’s suffering and needs. Compassion fatigue commonly strikes professionals whose role requires a lot of public-facing work, especially when those members of the public are in crisis.

Workers in mental health services, emergency services, or community outreach are often at risk of compassion fatigue, but so are retail workers, technical support representatives, and HR personnel. The pressure to always be professional (and even cheerful), regardless of the difficulty or stress of the task, or the rudeness of the person being served, takes a heavy toll on any employee, leading to persistent feelings of being burnt out.

The costs of compassion fatigue are real and can be debilitating. A person suffering from compassion fatigue may find it almost impossible to do their work. They may be curt and dismissive with colleagues or the public. They might make mistakes or become apathetic about their jobs. The most frustrating aspect about compassion fatigue is often that these employees don’t recognise these uncompassionate versions of themselves; they want to be empathetic, and know they should be, but they are physically and mentally too incapacitated to do so.

Are your team demonstrating compassion fatigue? To find out how we can help or to discuss the matter further, call us on 01935 411191 or email One of our trained HR consultants will be able to answer your queries and recommend some solutions.


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