Empathy in the Workplace

March 29, 2022

Following two years that have thrown employees into a masterclass for change management and adaptation, companies are exploring how to be more empathetic when engaging with team members.

According to the 2021 State of Workplace Empathy Study, as shared by Time Magazine, only 1 in 4 employees believed empathy in their organizations was “sufficient.”

Companies are starting to recognize that they must take empathy and concern for workers more seriously to combat the Great Resignation and war on talent.

Developing empathy means trying to understand and share the feelings or experiences of someone else, which can be difficult in an environment where employees have vastly different experiences. How can empathy be cultivated in a work setting?

Johnny C. Taylor Jr. CEO of SHRM and author of the upcoming book, Reset: A Leader’s Guide to Work in an Age of Upheaval, encourages companies to be sure that empathy is authentically explored and embraced – it can’t be a buzzword or initiative that’s simply tossed about. Employees will only get more discouraged and frustrated if leaders are saying one thing and doing another.

Empathy in the workplace has to go beyond respecting that others might be struggling or challenged by their circumstances. Companies have to dig deeper and incorporate empathy in everything they do from benefits offered to day-to-day expectations.

In the article from Time Magazine, one CEO shared, “We had an engineer give some feedback that was really striking. She said that the most empathetic thing her manager could do for her was be really clear about expectations. Let me be an adult and handle my deliverables so that I know what to do.”

Here are a few ways managers can begin cultivating a more empathetic culture at work:

  • Pulse checks.
    • Don’t limit communication with team members to formal meetings. Take time each week to check in with employees on a more personal level. Ask questions. Listen as they share frustrations. Discuss ways you can support them.
  • Ask, don’t tell.
    • Being empathetic goes beyond listening. Actively engaging employees in decision-making is critical to fostering goodwill and trust. It also demonstrates empathy by giving team members the opportunity to provide feedback or ideas for new policies or decisions related to the work they do.
  • Customize professional development.
    • Managers must recognize that each employee is different so creating customized professional development plans is critical to ensuring that you are supporting each team member based on their unique skillsets, goals and capacity. Don’t assume to know what employees want- ask them about goals, not only in the short-term, 3-5 years ahead – this can help employees feel invested in and committed to their place in your business.

Contact us today to learn more about our modern approach to performance management and development that actually improves the manager and employee relationship. Don’t just take our word for it, see what our Customers have to say.