Indian Leadership Academy

Embracing Empathy for Positive Work Culture

Empathy is a broad concept that refers to the cognitive and emotional reactions of an individual to the observed experiences of another. Empathy is the ability to understand someone else’s feelings and experiences. Empathy is a construct that is fundamental to leadership.

Empathy is the ability to emotionally understand what other people feel, see things from their point of view, and imagine yourself in their place.
It is the ability to step into someone else’s shoes, be aware of their feelings and understand their needs. It goes beyond simple sympathy, which is being able to understand and support others with compassion or sensitivity.

Need of Empathy at workplace:

Empathy at work are ideas that can help workers to form genuine connections which helps to perceive and relate to the other team members’ emotions, thoughts, opinions, or experiences.
Empathy in the workplace ensures that all members of a team within an organization are heard and seen as equals. Diverse perspectives and innovative solutions are more likely to come out when everyone is given a voice.
Empathy is the sign of a positive workplace, an empathetic leadership and motivated employees. Practicing empathy can improve company culture. According to research conducted by Businessolver®, 84 percent of CEOs believe empathy drives better business outcomes. In addition to this, 72 percent of workers believe empathy influences employee motivation.

Also In 2016, the Harvard Business Review released the Empathy Index, highlighting the top most empathic companies. You will be surprised to know the findings, According to their research, the top ten most empathic companies outperformed the bottom ten by at least 50% in productivity, earnings and growth.

Benefits of Empathy for positive work culture:-
  • Empathy boosts productivity:

    Through various researches it has been proved that helps in workplace productivity, as satisfied and happy employees work to their full capacity in execution of their duties.

  • Empathy fuels effective collaboration:

    Once employees are in a comfortable environment and can keep their opinion openly they are better to collaborate for success.

  • Increases the capacity for innovative thinking:

    Human connection is a powerful source of meaning and motivation, when leaders utilize empathy in the workplace, they inspire employees to come up with the innovative ideas.

Ensuring Empathy:

  • U- Understanding-

    To foster the empathetic work culture in an organization it is important to understand that what has been said and what has not been said which is directed towards the non- verbal communication of employees which helps to know better about their prospective, feelings, values and Situations.

  • S- Supporting

    the team members by Expressing compassion and warmth at the appropriate times, like empathizing with their challenges at work e.g. “I realize how complicated it is.” Also:-
    a) During a process or project, ask for details and provide clarity to ensure the whole team is set up for success.
    b) Ensure everyone feels empowered and confident to achieve their goals.
    c) Share ideas, bring enthusiasm and motivate and inspire the team

  • C- Communication with comfort

    Empathic communication involves emphasizing “how” a message is delivered, especially when it’s a difficult one.” For e.g. providing feedback - Empathetic communication helps in acceptance of the areas of improvement and at same time keeps them motivated toward task completion.

  • A- Acceptance

    The ability to consider and understand the perspective of other, understanding their point of view without being judgmental even in worst case scenarios where you disagree.
    (There could be many times when you have been through where you were stating your POV but the other person communicates like NO NO NO wait NO?)

  • L- Listening Skills

    One vital step towards corporate empathy is the willingness to listen and an openness to engage in conversation that prioritizes the well-being of the person you’re talking to.
    That can be done by asking thoughtful questions which indicate you the listener is genuinely curious. By being present and communicating it by non-verbal ques, by repeating the sentence back to the person speaking to show you are actively listening, one can show empathetic listening through these ways. .

  • E - Encouragement

    Look around the level of encouragement, motivation & appreciation in your workplace, the no. of supporting hands one is receiving in difficult times. The more the no. Of hands and the more is empathy.

Barriers to Empathy

Sometimes empathy can be tricky for people to figure out. The difference is subtle but significant, and it has serious implications in the way people feel about their interactions and how they assess effective leadership. An empathic leadership style can make everyone feel like a team and increase productivity, morale and loyalty. Empathy is a powerful tool in the leadership repertoire of a well-liked and respected executive.
Empathy plays a major role in the workplace that will deal with failures, poor performance and manage employees who genuinely show interest to contribute, improve, and grow. However, some leaders find this hard. It is therefore important to take note of the barriers to empathetic behavior:
    1. Ineffective choice of words: Words play a vital role in Empathy and it work like magic if chosen correctly but on other the hand it could worsened the environment with ineffective word choice.
    2. Poor listening: Listening demonstrates respect, concern, openness to new ideas, empathy, compassion, curiosity, trust, loyalty, and receptivity to feedback – all considered to be qualities of an effective leader. Inactive listening can lead to misunderstanding and miscommunications and hence causes the barrior to empathy.
    3. Fear: Fear arise from poor self-confidence or from feeling that one lacks the skills or knowledge to say or do the right thing and fear of not feeling capable to understand others pains is one core barrier to empathy.
    4. Personal Boundaries as a Barrier to Empathy:-Some too close to home experiences or something painfully presses the buttons, one feels the need to step back, and to stay removed from the situation. Professional as well as personal situations affect in both ways and could hamper the empathetic relationship.
    5. Stress: – Competition fuels energy, action, persistence, but it also causes employees to be selfish, angry, conflicted and stressed. The stress of being alone or against, stress of lacking behind, and sometimes intense disappointment and anger in an employee which prohibits the empathetic feelings.