Experts Suggest Workplace Empathy Leads To Fulfilled Teams

Showing empathy in the workplace is one of the most important aspects for leading teams. Leaders and managers who show a lack of empathy can cause stress and conflict, because they don’t seek to understand how others feel. Given that one of the most common reasons people leave their jobs is because of their bosses, it makes sense that a lack of empathy in the workplace may be behind many of these resignations.

Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings and vulnerabilities of those around you. As your business expands and more team members join your ranks, it will be crucial to your success. Plus, 60 percent of employees would be willing to take a pay cut to work for a more empathetic company. Empathy, then, isn’t only key to keeping your current workers satisfied and productive — it can also help you bring more great talent on board. But building an empathetic workplace doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, you need to make a series of small changes that add up to a massive, long-term impact. Here are 10 ways to increase empathy in the workplace.

  1. Listen to your team. Have engaged conversations and put judgement to the side.
  2. Be open to different perspectives. Encourage collaboration as only 17% of employees share similar thoughts.
  3. Practice patience. Take care of your own mental health to manage emotions.
  4. Prioritize employee wellness. Make sure your team is taken care of and prioritized over goals.
  5. Avoid making assumptions. Take a deep breath and respond instead of reacting during stressful times.
  6. Show support. Build on your team’s strengths and support them every step of the way.
  7. Be flexible. Focus on the core values and listen to the needs of your team.
  8. Follow through. Check the integrity of your leadership approach and have honest conversations.
  9. Show your team you’re thankful. Put everyone’s favorite snacks in the breakroom and say, “thank you.”
  10. Remember: we’re all human. Display compassion and take team concerns into consideration.

If these skills are so important, why do less than half of workers rate their workplaces as empathetic? Adopting a more compassionate tone company-wide isn’t simple. Empathy requires individuals to take the initiative to get closer to their coworkers. That initiative doesn’t come out of thin air: a compassionate workplace requires a conscious, organization-wide effort. As Cheril Clarke, an expert in business communication, says in her most recent blog post, the current global crisis, “is an opportunity for employers to lessen anxiety among employee ranks through compassionate and constructive dialogue. It is a chance to uplift and encourage workers rather than reinforce stereotypes of aloofness and class division.”

Learning empathy can be draining, both emotionally and mentally. Getting caught up in the problems and struggles of your coworkers means investing yourself personally into their lives. You may also end up seeing firsthand the shortcomings of your company, its leadership and individual employees, all of which can take a toll on you. Plus, empathy is difficult to measure. Sure, you can assess your employees’ morale through surveys and one-on-ones, but the direct impact of empathy on your bottom line is tricky to track.

Finally, empathic employees do have the potential to be taken advantage of by their coworkers in terms of time and expectations. In your effort to make yourself more available, some might try to dump more and more of their problems on your plate. While empathetic coworkers aren’t necessarily weak by any means, setting limits is crucial to a more compassionate work environment. Are these challenges an excuse to forget about empathy in the workplace, though? Absolutely not. With more workers than ever running away from companies that lack empathy, the need for more compassionate individuals in any given office is clear.

A 2018 State of Workplace Empathy Study by Businessolver found that 96 percent of employees surveyed believed it was important for their employers to demonstrate empathy. On the other hand, 92 percent thought that empathy remains undervalued. And eight of 10 employees, HR professionals and CEOs agreed that an empathetic workplace has a positive impact on business performance, motivating workers and increasing productivity. Thus, using empathy in the workplace can make life better for everyone. 

Taking the time and energy to become more empathetic is an ongoing, active process. From building trust with your colleagues to improving the quality of your own work, HR, IT, and other personnel who provide support to employees should exercise empathy in an effort to make their company a better place. And while empathy in the workplace might not seem like a top priority, compassionate coworkers have a massive influence on productivity and employee engagement alike. Workers thrive when they feel that their voices and concerns are heard.