How To Improve Workplace Empathy Through Building Cross-Department Bonds


Building workplace empathy can be challenging for business leaders. We all work in our little bubbles. We can create friendships with our immediate colleagues quickly, but it can be hard for someone in recruiting to understand things from the sales perspective. As businesses grow, these challenges can become even harder to grapple with. This divide leads to an office environment that can take you back to the cliquey nature of your adolescent years.

While you can’t expect everyone at work to get along all the time, building workplace empathy is essential. You don’t have to be friends with someone to understand where they are coming from. Let’s breakdown some tips and tricks to building empathy at work.

Find Different Ways To Spotlight Employees Across The Company

Shining the spotlight on your employees is the perfect way to get to know them. If you have a larger company, think outside the box and make sure your employees see workers from different departments as people.

Here are some ideas for spotlighting employees:

Create An Office Newsletter That Spotlights A Few People Per Week

Don’t produce a surface level newsletter; get deeper. Ask questions like, “What is one thing your colleagues would be surprised to know about you?” or “What’s your secret to success in life?” Create a newsletter that people are excited to read and make employee spotlights a big part of that.

Produce Videos Spotlighting A New Employee Each Week

When you produce videos spotlighting a new employee each week (or you can batch them and release them slowly), this can be stellar for internal and external use. You can use these videos to showcase your employees to multiple audiences: employees, potential employees, and clients. Everyone can benefit from watching these videos to learn more about the people at your company.

Showcase Employees During Every Company Meeting

Taking some time away from your meetings each week to spotlight employees is another phenomenal way to build workplace empathy. Pick 3-5 employees during each meeting and give them the floor for a few minutes. Let them talk about themselves, what they are interested in, et cetera. Giving them some time to share their story or the fact that they have a vintage vinyl collection will help other employees see them as more than just a random face in a meeting.

Walk In Your Coworkers Shoes

Another way to build workplace empathy would be a Day In The Life program. Divide your workers in half and assign each employee to a partner from a different department. Once they are matched up, allow them to work with each other on work tasks that day.

For example, if you partner up someone from HR with someone in sales, they would both work on HR tasks in the morning and work on sales tasks after lunch.

This quick exercise gives your employees a chance to see how other employees work. Your employee in human resources may never hop on a sales call again, but they will have better empathy next time the sales lead is looking for new sales recruits.

Create A Monthly Office Buddy Program

We often hear about mentorship programs as a way to build connections between company leaders and new employees. Building connections starts with taking the first step. By creating a monthly office buddy program, you can get your employees to make connections outside of their department.

Create an incentive around doing something with your office buddy at least twice throughout the month like an extra few hours of PTO or gift card giveaways.

Suggest simple activities like going to lunch together one day or seeing a movie outside of work.

Give some friendship building guidance to your employees too. Share some fun conversation starters, so there is never a dull moment while your employees are hanging out together.

Programs like Donut can be added to Slack to make this process seamless for employers to implement.

Utilize Arbitration To Solve Big Workplace Issues

Utilizing arbitration is about more than keeping problems in-house. Mediation can also help build workplace empathy, depending on the issue at hand. If there is a chance for a teachable moment that won’t put any party in significant risk, arbitration can be a great way to build empathy. Arbiters can be successful at showing each party both sides of the issue. Mediators are third parties who can communicate effectively with both sides. Arbitration can be an excellent step for employees who are having trouble seeing eye-to-eye.

Lead The Way For Your Team

If you are a team leader in the HR department, how do you interact with team leaders in other departments? Your employees will ultimately act like you act, now how you tell them to act. Actions start from the leadership downward. If you are giving employees permission through your activities to show a lack of empathy toward other departments, you can’t expect them to shower other employees with compassion.

Take a look at how you connect with other departments. Could you showcase cross-department friendships more prominently? What can your relationships teach you about your department’s relationship with other employees?


Building workplace empathy is a wonderful way to bridge the communication gap in your company. Empathy is a strong feeling, and therefore, it doesn’t happen overnight. You may never have a 100% empathetic workplace. Making these small changes can make a big difference in how your employees interact, though.

What steps will you take to build workplace empathy?