Combating Compassion and Change Fatigue

This year, the International Order of the Golden Rule (OGR) is focusing its podcast series on “The Changing Consumer, — exploring consumer needs in deathcare and how they have shifted in recent years. How are consumers finding and choosing their funeral homes? What services are they looking for? Which aspects of the funeral are most important to them? The 2023 season investigates questions such as these to provide insight into modern consumers.  

In the March 9 episode, host Gregory McClary, owner of Chapel of the Chimes in Westland, MI, spoke to Liesel Mertes, founder of Handle With Care Consulting. Mertes is a workplace empathy consultant who partners with businesses to provide guidance on how to meaningfully support employees as they experience disruptive life events. Examples of disruptive life events can include a relationship transition, death, medical diagnosis or others.  

The podcast episode covers the topic of empathy in the workplace and discusses tips for how funeral directors can provide the support that their staff needs. Mertes talks about “compassion fatigue,” which can make it difficult for many in the funeral profession to remain empathetic when providing support to others is such a large part of their job. 

“It is a setup for employee burnout if we’re showing empathy to all of these customers and stakeholders, but we forget that employees are our first customers,” Mertes said. “We can’t expect them to give that care if they’re not feeling that.”  

Mertes believes that one factor contributing to employee fatigue is the great number of changes that the funeral profession has undergone in recent years because of the pandemic and other factors. She also suggests that many small changes in day-to-day work can have a greater cumulative effect on burnout than one or two big changes. According to Mertes, the best way for funeral leaders to combat change fatigue is to create an open and trusting environment among staff.  

“The higher trust organizations are the ones where those changes are able to be more absorbed,” Mertes said. “You have more of a chance that your people are going to want to stay when they’re going to be bought into the mission or bought into each other enough that [they] are in it for the long term.” 

The full interview touches on topics such as the ways that workplace culture has changed in a post-pandemic world and tips for providing empathy for everyone in your life.  

To listen to the full episode with Liesel Mertes, click here. The full season of The Changing Consumer is also available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and in the OGR Learning Library. For more information about the OGR Podcast Series or to revisit previous seasons of the podcast, visit the OGR podcast page. For more information on Liesel Mertes or Handle with Care Consulting, you can visit her website 

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