Empathy generates interest in and appreciation for others, paving the way to more productive working relationships. As managers hone their empathy, they improve their leadership effectiveness and increase their chances of success in the job. Empathetic leaders are assets to organizations, in part, because they are able to effectively build and maintain relationships — a critical part of leading organizations anywhere in the world.
Sympathy vs Empathy
Empathy is the ability to perceive and relate to the thoughts, emotions, or experiences of others. Those with high levels of empathy are skilled at understanding a situation from another person’s perspective and reacting with compassion. In the workplace, this simply means that your people are able to establish true connections with one another that enhance relationships and performance.
I want to point out the difference between sympathy and empathy, as the two are often confused or combined. Sympathy is typically defined by feelings of pity for another person, without really knowing what it’s like to be in their situation. Empathy, on the other hand, refers to the capacity or ability to imagine oneself in the situation of another, experiencing the emotions, ideas, or opinions of that person. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s discuss some important points for empathy in the workplace.
Empathy in the Workplace
One of the reasons empathy is essential for the workplace (and for competent leadership) is it enables you to know if the people you’re trying to reach are actually being reached. You can use empathy to predict the effect your actions and decisions will have on your target audience, which leads to a better strategy. Think about it this way: without empathy, it’s difficult to build a team or nurture a new generation of leaders. It makes it more difficult to inspire followers or elicit loyalty.
Next reason empathy is important in the workplace. Keeping calm and collected at work is considered the ultimate professional composure to maintain. Employees pride themselves on being professional at work, at the cost of keeping their emotional state under wraps. This could prove detrimental to the workplace because it doesn’t encourage team members to bring their full, authentic selves to work, thus losing potential.
Another reason empathy is important is that it improves communication and relationships amongst the people within the organization. Organizations are about people, so they should be given an opportunity to create value and be valued at work. The impact of recognition from one’s team goes a long way in establishing trust and loyalty. Employees want to feel like they belong and are connected at work, but that relies on treating each other with empathy.
Lastly, empathy leads to trust-building in the workplace. It can begin with habitually asking employees how they are feeling when sudden workflow changes happen within the organization. Encourage your leaders and managers to give time and attention to their team members to foster greater empathy. This will result in enhanced overall performance and will improve their effectiveness at perception when it comes to identifying the emotions and feelings of their team.
As Simon Sinek mentions in his YouTube video, empathy is about seeing people as people. We all have personal problems, egos, social issues that we deal with. But it comes down to the leaders to acknowledge this and show they care. Taking care of the people who get you the results is what’s important. Giving someone a safe space to share what they’re going through personally or professionally helps in making them feel seen, heard, and valued. Empathy is essential to good leadership.
How do you show empathy in the workplace? Let us know in the comments!
This article originally published on GREY Journal.