The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a huge toll on people’s mental health. The pandemic has certainly impacted everyone in different ways. For some, it’s been losing their jobs.
For others, it’s been about adapting to work-from-home conditions. For recently graduated students, it’s been about losing their job offers received during their senior years.
The stress brought in by the pandemic has certainly impacted everyone’s well-being. And today, as we start feeling the hope of things finally returning back to normal, the Delta variant has come to crush our optimism. This leaves people with the question: When is the pandemic going to end?
The uncertainty brought by the pandemic has highlighted the importance of empathy in the workplace.
It is a common practice to ensure that businesses can thrive in today’s competitive market. It is the very nature of every company to hire and train the best possible managers and leaders.
While it’s still imperative for business success to have the best people on board, today’s workforce demands flexibility and understanding within its leadership.
Remote working conditions have erased the boundaries between work and life. Working from home often involves parents working while taking care of the kids. People’s notions of work and life have never been so universally integrated.
According to The Washington Post, 33% of workers today would leave their jobs if they received an offer from a more empathetic and compassionate company. Practicing empathy in the workplace matters. It’s not only good for employees. It’s also a great business strategy to empower and retain top talent.
Why is Empathy Important?
Empathy is the ability to recognize the needs of others and being conscious of their emotional state.
Although empathy in the workplace often goes unnoticed, it’s time for leaders to start practicing it. Having a team that can trust each other, admit mistakes, and engages with psychological safety is key to any great organization. All of which starts with empathy.
Practicing empathy in the workplace allows employees to connect with coworkers and clients more effectively. Connecting, supporting, listening, and helping each other in the office means setting a business up for success for the long term. Improving communication with others and building strong relationships also results in a more positive work environment.
How empathetic people rate their company directly impacts how engaged, productive, and loyal they’ll be towards their employer.
When people feel supported and valued, they’ll be more likely to put in longer hours, reject higher-paying job offers, and do more than what it’s being asked for.
Why? Because we are social beings. We care about the well-being, survival, and, ultimately, the ability to thrive of our tribe. The same happens in the workplace.
Everyone has their own set of values, cultural understandings, backgrounds, and perspectives that make them unique. Yet, when people appreciate and acknowledge each other, that’s when connection and trust begin.
Some of the advantages of practicing empathy in the workplace include:
1) Empathy Improves Communication
When people practice empathy, they can better adapt their communication style to the person or group they are interacting with. Empathy would enable coworkers to more effectively tailor what’s being communicated with who’s it being communicated to.
When colleagues engage in mutual understanding, they are more likely to be their most authentic selves. As a result, they’ll listen more, give each other their full attention, ask more questions, and be open about their feelings.
2) Empathy Enhances Customer Service
Empathy can empower businesses to provide better customer service. Empathetic employees are better able to anticipate customers’ wants and needs.
Empathy is a powerful tool to solve customers’ problems fast and efficiently. When dealing with unhappy customers, empathetic employees would be more likely to make customers feel heard and valued while reaching a solution that satisfies both parties.
Therefore, empathy in the workplace is not only beneficial for employee engagement and team building. When customers feel valued, they become way more likely to come back or, even better, refer the brand to friends and family.
3) Empathy Strengthens Relationships
Isn’t it more enjoyable when you enjoy working with your colleagues? It’s very unlikely that anyone would disagree with such a statement.
Empathy can help colleagues become better team members. By fostering rapport and trust, employees will be more likely to get to know the human side of each other. Empathy allows employees to see Jane from accounting, for instance, as Jane who’s dealing with her sick grandparent, or Jane with an adorable new puppy.
This allows for teams to interact with each other in ways that don’t always involve work. By seeing people through human lenses, colleagues will be more likely to have each other’s back and best interest at heart.
The Importance of Practicing Empathy
Practicing empathy can be a challenge. Our innate levels of empathy are directly tied to our personality and upbringing. Therefore, learning empathy often requires great amounts of mental and emotional energy. Yet, the best way to start learning empathy is with… oneself.
Loving, caring for, and recognizing our own needs, just as we do for others, is the first step. This is what self-empathy is.
It’s not about taking care of others less. It’s not about being selfish either. It’s about making sure we are taking care of ourselves first to then translate that into others.
People frequently overlook self-empathy. However, the reality is that we cannot be empathetic towards others before first being compassionate with ourselves. We’ll never be able to build meaningful relationships until the one you have with yourself is rock solid.
Self-empathy serves as the foundation for any fruitful relationship.
Being emotionally self-aware is the most effective way to start practicing empathy. Only empathetic people who can recognize and respond to their own needs and emotions achieve true happiness.
The following are some simple ways to start practicing self-empathy:
- Watch without judging.
- Converse with yourself as if you were with your best friend.
- Anger, rage, fear, disappointment, anxiety, and worry are all common emotions. Life will always present you with tough challenges and test your abilities to deal with setbacks. Today, tomorrow, and always, don’t be too tough on yourself. Practice forgiveness.
How to Show Empathy in the Workplace
So, how do we show empathy in the workplace? Below we outline some simple, yet relevant strategies to start creating more empathetic workplaces.
Remember that, by doing so, not only will employees benefit. It will also create a competitive advantage for companies as a whole.
Try Walking in Your Colleagues’ Shoes
Did you ever have to deal with an irritating boss? Have you ever wished you had a different team lead? We’ve all been there, and we all know what it’s like.
But, have you ever asked yourself what’s it like to be in your bosses’ shoes?
Maybe the reason why he or she is putting so much pressure on you is upper management pushing tight deadlines or cutting the department’s budget. Maybe your boss is dealing with family drama or going through something personal.
Regardless of what it is, you’ll never know unless you reach out, ask, and have an honest conversation. It’s easier said than done but try reaching out to your boss or co-worker with an open mind.
The first step towards practicing empathy is starting a conversation. Try seeing your boss or colleague not as who they are to you professionally, but as human beings. Their status, job titles, or salary often raises shields that make them hard for others to approach them. Thinking of them as people rather than your ‘boss’ or ‘co-worker’ can enable empathy to flow.
Avoid Making Assumptions
Passing judgments on people is never a good idea. We never know what people are going through – especially during a worldwide pandemic.
Say a newly hired employee looks stressed and out of balance. Instead of making their day even more uncomfortable, why not talk to them about the company’s work environment? Adapting to new atmospheres usually takes time.
Making assumptions about that person would only worsen the situation. That’s why practicing empathy in the workplace often falls under the leadership team’s shoulders. Leaders should be the ones leading by example and modeling the behavior they’d like to see in the office.
Give Importance to Feelings and Emotions
In today’s fast-paced environment, people are often too focused on what needs to be done. It’s always about what’s next, reaching the sales quota, or achieving the next promotion. It’s easy for feelings to be left behind.
With a sole focus on achieving the next big thing, we can easily forget about how team members are feeling.
Have we stopped and celebrated the team’s achievements? Have we made time to hit pause and look back at how far we’ve come? If accomplishments are being celebrated, are they celebrated because we have to or want to?
Time flies by. Take the time to reflect, meditate, or just honestly celebrate how far you’ve come.
Be a Good Listener
Listening is perhaps empathy’s greatest fuel. When we listen, really listen, we are sending the message that we genuinely care.
How often have you been asked in the office, “How’s your day going?” Then you start elaborating, and you soon realize that the question has been asked out of courtesy rather than because people really want to know.
Don’t be that person. Actively listen to people. When having a conversation, focus your attention not on your immediate response, but on what is being said.
Their problems might be of utmost importance to them. It could seriously be affecting their workflow or mental state. Being there for each other can make a huge difference.
Start Practicing Empathy in the Workplace Today!
Empathy plays an essential role in creating a positive work environment. Being kind to your customers is essential. But being kind to your colleagues is way more important. It helps build trust, connection, rapport, and psychological safety.
Businesses and leaders looking to make their teams more productive, empower and retain top talent, boost creativity, and build trust should consider practicing empathy in the workplace.
It will take time, but the difference will show.