Empathy in the workplace

Empathy is a soft skill which is about respecting what a person needs as well as genuinely listening to their response. In the workplace, empathy can help to create a more inclusive, positive workplace environment with the emphasis on positive conversations. It may not be a traditional management skill but it can help leaders to be more “person-focused” thereby helping them to understand other people’s point of view.

Looking beyond traditional strategies for management development

Empathy is a key part of emotional intelligence and leadership effectiveness. Interactions with other people are more effective meaning communication is also more effective and outcomes more positive.
Some managers will be more empathetic than others and they do have an advantage. Some people will feel anxious about committing themselves to a situation emotionally but empathy in the workplace is about putting aside your own feelings and putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. Empathy can be taught and coaching can be an excellent tool to begin the journey guiding leaders into improving their listening skills and how to increase their capacity to connect with others.

Work well with different people

Not to be confused with sympathy, empathy is a key skill which can help to improve leadership performance. An empathetic manager will put themselves in the other person’s situation in order to gain understanding. Empathy can help in conflict situations, solving problems or driving innovation and creativity too. If a leader is seen to be supportive and understanding they are far more likely to inspire loyalty and co-operation from their team. Compassionate reflection and response can help a leader go above and beyond.
An empathetic response can also help in client relationships. If a customer feels you understand them they will be more confident in the service you are providing and in fulfilling a need. This can be particularly useful in a sales environment where empathy can be used to gauge the mood of a customer helping the salesperson to choose the best way to steer the conversation.

Better communication and positive outcomes

Feeling empathetic towards an employee and their situation can improve communication. An empathetic leader will respond to concerns more quickly, take inspiration from reflective listening, acknowledge the experiences of others, be accountable and use insight to improve someone else’s mood and to support them through a particular situation. Showing empathy means letting others know that you understand their situation before moving on.
Communication is about exchanging ideas, thoughts, opinions and knowledge and if others don’t feel listened to and understood then their perception is that communication is poor. That can only create a negative environment in the workplace.

Empathy can be a soft skill missing in the workplace. Why is that? Developing empathy requires time and effort and means prioritising others above oneself. It means talking less and listening more. The benefits of coaching your leaders in empathy can be tangible and it can improve customer service, improve cultural awareness, improve capacity for innovative thinking and leaders who are more empathetic are more likely to be good leaders.

Contact Liz Jewer on 07803 007591 if you want to create a more empathetic leadership team.

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Contact Liz Jewer on 07803 007591 if you need advice about this topic or HR related services HR Think offer.