Compassionate Working Relationships: Three Qualities that Matter

Boundaries separate and boundaries connect. The critical point is that working relationships have a genuine basis for conveying respect and consideration for others.

Recent posts reflected on how much people vary on sharing themselves at work. Some like a crisp division between working relationships and personal relationships. Others prefer fully engaged relationships across those boundaries. Most work settings leave enough latitude for employees to find the mix that works.

Regardless of one’s stand on boundaries, working relationships require some level of personal involvement. People attend closely to the quality of their encounters at work. They have standards, perhaps only on an emotional level, that define what a respectful working relationship is all about. They notice when those elements go awry.

Awareness. The essence of respect is acknowledging another person. That means not only recognizing someone’s presence, but having some idea of their strengths and aspirations.

Acknowledgement. It’s not enough to be aware of the presence of other people; acknowledging them means to translate that awareness into action. At the minimum, a greeting acknowledges others. An informed comment on their work goes further in establishing a connection.

Appreciation. The third quality is expressing appreciation for the contributions of other people. In so many work settings, a major complaint of employees is lack of appreciation. When we explore the issue, it becomes clear that managers are not the only culprits. In environments with slim appreciation from managers, appreciation from colleagues is hard to find.

Appreciation builds upon awareness and acknowledgement. It works fairly independently of how people manage the boundaries between their work and family life. Appreciation conveys compassion as well as respect by showing a genuine connection among people who work together.

Otherwise, worklife can become a dull place.


  1. How can I get my colleagues to acknowledge and appreciate me? I feel I do a great deal to acknowledge them, but find it is never reciprocated.

  2. Laura

    Good to hear from you.

    I think you’re on the right track with acknowledging their contributions. However, modelling the right behavior is a tried and true but slow method for inspiring change.

    Perhaps you can move things along by having a conversation with your colleagues, either informally or at a team meeting about acknowledging one another. The subtle approach may not be the right one for your group.

    All the best,

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