Learn how to positively impact team wellbeing and productivity
Empathy in the workplace is a popular topic right now. We hear about the benefits and why it is important. But to practice it effectively, maybe we need to take a step back and understand what it is first.
What is empathy? Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from their point of view. In other words, you are putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. We often practice empathy with those we care about outside the office, but empathy also applies with our coworkers, bosses, and clients. Empathy is a skill, and like other skills, it requires practice.
Practicing empathy in the workplace
Empathy is action with intentions. Here are some tips to help you start actively showing it in the workplace:
- Provide recognition – Call out when your coworker does a great job and show you notice their effort.
- Show appreciation for large and small achievements – What may be seem small to you may be a big accomplishment for someone else.
- Check-in with your teammates to see how they’re doing on a personal level – We all have struggles that may affect productivity. Connecting on a personal level goes a long way.
- Don’t be too harsh when an employee falls short – There maybe be environmental factors. Take a breath before you speak because unkind words may be piling on top of more problems and will result in an even more negative outcome.
Practicing empathy at work has always been important. When employees feel that they are seen, heard, and understood, they feel supported and do better work. Empathy in the workplace is correlated with positive business outcomes such as increased productivity, motivation, and innovation. It also reduces stress, increases confidence, and boosts happiness in both our personal and professional lives.
But on the flip side, just as positive feedback has an impact, so does negative feedback. When we share negative comments, this has a significant impact on the person that is receiving them. Negative comments at work cause stress, and we often carry our work stress into our personal lives. However, we can still give constructive feedback in an empathic way. It’s important to be aware of our tone, presentation, and timing as well as not making it personal.
Leading with empathy
Building an empathetic culture in the workplace starts at the top. Whether leaders are empathic or not, their actions cascade down to the rest of the company and impact everyone. True leaders have the capacity to understand their employees and find solutions to help them excel in their roles. In fact, according to a recent publication in Forbes, research indicates that empathy is the most important leadership skill.
In Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s words: “In addition to confidence, a CEO must have empathy. This skill is not on the CEO job description list, but it is a very important one to achieve business success.” He also said that although many regard it as a “soft skill,” not especially relevant to the “hard work of business,” empathy is a wellspring for innovation because innovation comes from one’s ability to grasp customers’ unmet, unarticulated needs.
So why is empathy such an important skill for leaders? Here are just a few ways it can impact your business and your team.
- Enhance your team’s performance, which ultimately gets reflected in positive financial results.
- Foster engagement and retain talent while increasing productivity, motivation, and innovation.
- Improve your team’s wellbeing and happiness by reducing stress and increasing confidence.
Understanding and being sensitive to others’ experiences, feelings, and thoughts will connect you closer to those around you—which will benefit both your relationships and your business performance. You will gradually see how your employees become more productive, motivated, and willing to go the extra mile when receiving compliments for the little and the big things. Now more than ever, we need to show and get empathy in the workplace and in our personal lives.