Empathy in the workplace and why its important

The Importance of Empathy in the Workplace

Businesses need to have good leaders and managers to help the company persevere through challenging times and make the most out of favorable situations. While traditional management skills are still necessary, developing and cultivating new skills is also vital as the modern workplace shifts toward a person-focused approach.

One of the skills that leaders and managers should foster is empathy. An empathetic leader or manager can create an enjoyable work environment for employees, encouraging growth and productivity. Read on to learn more about empathy in leadership and what you can do to promote empathy in yourself and others.

What Is Empathy?

Empathy describes the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes and understand their needs. It lets you relate to their thoughts and feelings and develop a deeper understanding of who they are as a person. If another person is struggling, empathy lets you envision yourself in the same situation. By imagining how someone else's experience might make you feel, you can respond with kindness and compassion. 

It can be challenging to understand someone else's perspective. While most people understand their own emotions and feelings, it takes time and effort to develop empathy and learn what it means to walk in another person's shoes.

Empathy can also foster practical communication skills that create positive outcomes. Effective communication is an essential skill that allows you to connect with others in personal and professional settings. Though often overlooked, empathy in the workplace makes it easier to communicate and connect with your employees, strengthen your bonds and boost their performance.

Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy

People often confuse sympathy and empathy, using the two terms interchangeably. However, there are key differences that make sympathy and empathy very different:

  • - Sympathy: Experiencing sympathy means that while you may feel pity for someone's situation or struggles, you can't connect with or understand their experience and feelings. A sympathetic approach only understands another person's challenges from your perspective, limiting your ability to respond to their struggles. For example, while you might feel sorry for someone who's having a hard time at home, you can't understand how it feels from their perspective.
  • - Empathy: Empathizing lets you imagine yourself in another person's situation with no judgment attached. You can understand why someone feels the way they do and experience their emotions, ideas or opinions. Empathy helps you build and maintain connections with other people by digging below the surface of people's statements and looking for non-verbal cues. Empathy is more productive than sympathy in the workplace since employees will feel more supported.

Empathy helps people feel validated and understood. Listening to someone's challenges and understanding where they're coming from can go a long way in personal and professional relationships. 

Why is it Important to Have Empathy in the Workplace?

Empathy is an essential skill that leaders should foster to make the work environment as productive as possible. Practicing empathy with your employees and team members can help you:

  • - Improve communication: As an empathetic leader, you can adapt your communication style to the specific person or team you're working with. Changing your body language and tone of voice to suit the needs of the people in the conversation helps them recognize that you're listening. Employees who feel heard and understood are more likely to communicate effectively
  • - Foster creative thinking: Empathy can help you understand your team members' needs and perspectives, fostering innovative solutions to challenges. You might think of ideas that you hadn't considered before and use strategies that help you connect with customers and clients.
  • - Improve customer service: Using empathy in customer service can help you anticipate what your consumer needs and wants. In a call from a frustrated customer, empathy allows you to listen and respond with kindness. An empathetic response makes customers feel valued and more likely to continue doing business with your company. 
  • - Strengthen relationships: Employees will feel more validated when you take an empathetic approach, helping you gain their trust and establish a solid rapport. When employees or team members share their ideas, listen to what they have to say and encourage them as often as possible. 
Empathetic leaders are a tremendous asset to their companies

How Can You Be Empathetic in the Workplace?

Empathetic leaders are a tremendous asset to their companies and businesses. Leaders who show empathy connect more effectively with their team members, encouraging higher productivity and deeper bonds. Some common ways you can show empathy in the workplace include:

  • - Keeping an eye out for signs of burnout: Burnout can happen to anyone experiencing high levels of pressure or stress. Leaders who can identify the signs of work burnout in their employees can help prevent it from affecting turnover or productivity. Each week, check in with team members to gauge how they're feeling about their current workload. In addition to showing your employees that you care about their well-being, this check-in can help you spot signs of burnout early enough to prevent it.
  • - Making an effort to help employees: Empathetic leaders understand that employees are juggling their work and personal life, which can sometimes cause stress and decrease productivity. Supporting your struggling employees makes your team members feel valued. Let your employees know that the line of communication is open and that they can share openly without fear of judgment.
  • - Showing genuine interest in team members' needs and goals: Leaders who care about their employees' needs and goals can match assignments to individuals in ways that contribute to productivity and job satisfaction. Employees who feel seen are more likely to engage in their work and go above and beyond.
  • - Displaying compassion after personal loss: Personal loss can happen to anyone at any time. Leaders who show empathy and understanding during these times prove to their employees that their bond matters.  

While you should practice empathy frequently, it's also important to set boundaries and continue to hold people accountable. It can be easy to overcorrect as you learn, getting caught up in other people's struggles or allowing employees to constantly miss deadlines. 

Each situation is unique and it takes practice to learn how much empathy is appropriate in every circumstance. Ensure that you're still making good decisions and maintaining a standard of behavior.

Build empathy skills in leadership with the NeuroLeadership Institute

Build Empathy Skills in Leadership With the NeuroLeadership Institute

Empathy is an essential skill that can make a significant difference in the productivity and happiness of your employees. It's also just one of many leadership skills that you can utilize to improve your relationship with employees and make your work environment as successful as possible. 

At the NeuroLeadership Institute, we offer brain-based coaching programs, helping you become a more effective leader and communicator by learning how the brain works. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you improve your leadership skills and your business.