Showing empathy in the workplace is a skill that every business can benefit from. With recent workplace surveys indicating that 1 in 3 employees would leave for a more compassionate environment, taking ownership of creating a more empathetic workplace is a priority that managers and leaders must acknowledge.
Think about your own organisation and the people that are most empathetic. What roles do they have? How does their empathy help others in the business? You will see a pattern emerge with the teams that are more empathetic, or the teams that have the more empathetic individuals.
Today, we’re going to take a look at the role of empathy in the workplace and why it is necessary to build this into our organisation and people.
What is empathy?
According to Wikipedia, “Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another's position.”
Another way to understand empathy is “put yourself in one’s shoes, being aware of their feelings and understanding their needs."
Often confused with sympathy - which refers to the ability to take part in someone else's feelings, mostly by feeling sorrowful about their misfortune - empathy is about placing yourself in a situation to understand an issue and finding solutions in that frame of mind.
Why empathy is important in the workplace
By showing empathy in the workplace, you're demonstrating a deep respect for co-workers as well as, showing that you care. It’s more than following rules and regulations; as with most things in life, it's about understanding there is nuance and complexity to many different situations. By developing a more empathic leadership style, leaders can make everyone feel like a team and increase productivity, morale and loyalty.
A recent Harvard Business Review study showed that “empathetic companies outperform their more callous counterparts by 20%.” Another 2018 study showed that “96% of workers felt that showing empathy in the workplace is important” but that “92% believe this trait is undervalued in their workplaces.”
Whilst there is no handbook to being more empathetic, you can build a culture of awareness within an organisation. One of the key tenets to empathy is EQ; emotional intelligence. EQ “is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict.” This can be assessed across a business with the right tools.
Empathy in the workplace has a direct impact on productivity, loyalty and engagement.
Global business leader, Gary Vaynerchuk has made his business processes revolve around empathy and kindness. “The number two person at the company is not the CFO. It’s not the COO. It’s our Chief Heart Officer (or “Head of HR”), Claude Silver. And it’s the biggest variable to my business’s success.”
Ways leaders can show empathy in the workplace
Whilst empathy is something that can only be learnt on an individual basis; leaders and workers can show empathy on a day to day basis.
Do any of these examples remind you of your workplace? Staff late to a call because of childcare issues? An employee being late because of unforeseen traffic? A staff member returning to work after suffering loss? A new member of the team feeling out of depth in their role? A newly promoted manager is dealing with issues they haven’t faced before?
All of these are common problems. One way to show empathy is by simply listening. Rise defines active listening as “one of the best ways to demonstrate empathy in the workplace, as it lets the other person know they’ve been understood.” The key here is to remain silent and not form any judgements, simply listen and repeat back what you’ve heard to show your sense of understanding in the problem.
Empathy in the workplace is a soft skill that every business can benefit from. Being able to understand your colleagues' issues and the framework of their problems can help you as an individual and as a business impact on productivity, loyalty and engagement.
Whilst there is no handbook to being more empathetic, tools like active listening are an easy way to change corporate culture. Finally, taking ownership of empathy in the workplace is a management tool that will help a business’ success over time; EQ assessments will help identify your most empathetic employees that will help transform workplace culture.
Create a more empathetic workplace with Thomas
Numerous studies have attributed higher levels of emotional intelligence to increased staff engagement, in turn creating more successful businesses
To successfully guide other people, a leader must be empathetic, and understand what motivates or upsets them. Empathy gives leaders the ability to tune into the needs of others which develops better relationships. Thomas's Emotional Intelligence assessment can help your business understand employees emotions and how they approach the emotions of others in the workplace.
To find out more about how our solutions and tools can help you create a more empathetic workplace, please speak to one our team.