There are many essential skills to have in order to lead and perform well in the workplace – one of the most important being empathy. Having empathy in this environment allows you to connect with colleagues, seniors, and even clients in a deeper, more meaningful way.
Despite this, empathy is often overlooked as a critical soft skill. Here we explain how it influences the workplace positively and ways in which you can improve your ability to show empathy.
What is empathy?
Empathy describes the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand their perspective and the emotions they are experiencing. In the workplace, having empathy means that employees are able to establish real, empathetic connections that enhance relationships with colleagues and their overall performance.
How does empathy impact the workplace?
Each company consists of a variety of individuals, each with their own unique personality, background, culture, perspectives, etc. In such an environment, having the ability to understand the perspective and feelings of those around you can be incredibly beneficial. When employees are empathetic, there are many benefits for the workplace.
Creates stronger co-worker relationships
In the work environment, you will come across and collaborate with many individuals coming from various backgrounds. In these situations, having empathy will allow you to understand and respect the differences in your co-workers. This, in turn, will promote harmony and help to foster trust in the team.
Leads to more creative thinking
In this sense, you may not use empathy to understand your fellow colleagues. Rather, you can use empathy to gain an understanding of your target audience or customers. This insight can then be used to develop creative solutions and strategies that serve the wants and needs of your target audiences.
As mentioned previously, having empathy helps you to better understand the thoughts and perspectives of those around you. When you’re communicating with someone, this understanding will help you to adapt to the communication style of the person you are engaging with, which can facilitate mutual understanding.
Improved customer service
When you have empathy, you can already gain a better understanding of your customers, which will help you to predict their needs and wants. When customers complain about an issue they have, you should allow them to tell you what is wrong without interrupting them. This shows that their time, thoughts and feelings are valued which will leave them more open to considering any solutions you suggest to them.
What happens when a workplace and its people lack empathy?
As you can see above, a workplace that values empathy can achieve great things. On the other side of the coin, a workplace lacking in empathy can face many challenges such as:
- Poor communication
- Lack of teamwork or helping behaviour
- Breakdown of relationships
How to become more empathetic
As you can see, promoting empathy in the workplace presents numerous benefits. Luckily, there are several things you can do to develop this skill.
Improve your active listening skills
Active listening is the practice of focusing on what a speaker is saying before thinking of a response. In doing this, you will gain a better understanding of their perspective and thought process, which will allow you to be more engaged.
Ask if someone needs help
In the work environment, each employee faces different challenges, be it work-related or personal. An easy way to show empathy to your fellow colleagues is to offer them your help. This does not only show that you care but also that you’re a team player.
Don’t invalidate others’ feelings
Even if you are a highly empathetic person, you may not always understand where someone is coming from with their perspective. Acknowledging their thoughts and feelings and explaining that you understand, shows empathy.
Tailor your communication
When you become aware of the thoughts and opinions of coworkers or other audiences you engage with, you can demonstrate empathy by adapting your communication style to one similar to the individual or group you’re talking to. In practice, this can be using vocabulary and intonation that reflects those you’re communicating with.
Learn more about emotional intelligence in the workplace here.
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