Overcoming Compassion Fatigue for Human Resources Practitioners

Human Resources professionals work in an environment that, under normal circumstances, tends to be stressful. Among their more important responsibilities are resolving disputes, addressing concerns and complaints, supporting management and employees, and assisting with discipline and performance management.

Along with managing everyday work responsibilities, HR professionals are now tasked with managing human resources in the world of COVID-19. This has caused HR practitioners to be stretched emotionally because they are dealing with a continuous flow of distressed employees, from workers to management, and their own stresses because of the pandemic. Add changes in workforce culture, policies, laws, and regulations due to COVID-19, and we have the perfect formula for compassion fatigue, a condition that is usually associated with health care providers.

Compassion Fatigue

So, what is compassion fatigue, and how does it affect HR professionals? Compassion fatigue occurs when the capacity for empathy decreases as a person’s fatigue increases. Research has indicated that compassionate people, such as HR professionals, can suffer from compassion fatigue. Fatigue increases in HR professionals specifically, although not exclusively, due to a high level of continuous exposure to employees’ negative emotions, where employees rely on HR to provide assistance and support.

There is a cost to the HR professional who is engaging with distressed employees in crises while collectively experiencing the trauma of the pandemic. For caring HR Professionals, the continual exposure to employee’s distressed emotions may result in the HR Professional’s feelings, attitudes, and beliefs changing and affecting their view of the world. The exposure can lead to profound emotional and physical consequences.

How to Avoid Compassion Fatigue as an HR Professional

Making a committed effort to reduce stress is imperative to avoiding debilitating compassion fatigue. HR professionals must continually assess their mental wellness and be aware of the symptoms.

The incidence of compassion fatigue can be reduced when the HR Professional has access to emotional and work support. Being able to discuss issues with colleagues, attend training workshops, spend time with friends and family via video chat, celebrate even small wins, exercise the body and mind, and limit workload in general, have shown to be the most helpful in reducing fatigue.

Taking time away from the source of stress in a pandemic is also essential in reducing fatigue. HR Professionals need to take their allotment of leave and relax and recuperate. If it is impossible to take time away, HR Professionals need to have a strong separation between work and home life. Staying in touch with friends, having hobbies, looking forward to events not related to work can create a psychological distance needed to relieve fatigue.

During the pandemic, working in HR may be difficult, and dealing with the pandemic, in general, is overwhelming. Mental wellness is critical in avoiding compassion fatigue, and professionals need to be aware of signs of struggling workers. Or better yet, take proactive steps to avoid getting compassion fatigue through self-awareness.