Self-compassion at work: Exploration of the mediating effect of social safeness

Empirical studies
By Frédéric Pinard, Francesco Montani, François Courcy, Véronique Dagenais-Desmarais


Self-compassion is a newly defined construct in the scientific literature. The research on the subject, growing at an exponential rate, shed light on its proprieties to promote psychological well-being and to lower depression and anxiety levels on clinical and non-clinical populations. However, the effects of self-compassion have rarely been studied in the workplace. The current state of research only points out the buffering effects of self-compassion on burnout for nurses, firefighters, priests and woman managers. Nonetheless, self-compassion could help an organization to perform better by stimulating social processes between employees. To expand our understanding of the effects of self-compassion at work, we investigated its effects on relational and affective-motivational variables in the workplace. Precisely, we propose a mediation model linking self-compassion with team-member exchange quality and compassion to others through social safeness. We theorize that self-compassion enhances one’s sensitivity to prosocial cues and signs of warmness from colleagues, which in turn could foster good relationships with colleagues by reciprocating warm behaviors and inclination to help others. To test these hypotheses, a two-wave correlational study has been conducted on 146 employees from nine Canadian organizations of various industries. The participants were asked to answer to two self-reported questionnaires with a lag of three months between the two measurements. To participate, the workers had to have at least six months tenure within their organization in order to more accurately answer the questionnaire. Gender, age, organizational tenure and education were controlled because of previous research highlighting their influence on the variables studied. The results from hierarchical multiple regression and mediation analyses found a significant total mediating effect of social safeness between self-compassion and team-member exchange quality and compassion to others, which supports the hypotheses of this study. This study deepens our understanding of the effects of self-compassion at work by documenting how this individual state can nuance the social exchange between workers and lead an individual to be more sensitive and to offer help to colleagues in need. This study also suggests new ways to stimulate good relationships and a social support system of workers and highlights the importance of investing in the development of employee self-compassion.


  • Compassion
  • self-compassion
  • social safeness
  • team-member exchange quality
  • workplace
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