- July 12, 2021
- Posted by: James Haggerty
- Category: Effective Leadership
Empathy is one of the easiest and most beneficial tools a leader can use. When someone in a leadership role employs empathy with their employees, overall communications within a company will become better, with the added benefit of long-lasting relationships being able to form. If employees feel confident and comfortable in their workplace, they will turn to their leadership for coaching, therapy, and support whenever needed. Studies show that the more engaged an employee is within their workplace and their workplace relationships, there will be higher productivity, increased profitability, increased customer satisfaction, and overall employee loyalty. These are just a few of the beneficial reasons a great power comes with leading employees in an empathetic manner.
The ability of leaders to be compassionate and form genuine connections with others is critical in work environments, in both personal and professional aspects. A leader demonstrating empathy in the workplace is a vital part of being an effective leader and holds the power to improve interactions between employees and lead to more effective communication and positive outcomes for a company as a whole.
What Is an Empathetic Leader?
We can’t highlight enough the importance of providing an empathetic, friendly work environment for your employees. Workplace environments where employees are comfortable expressing emotions and being unafraid of potential repercussions will increase any business’s profitability and produce better relationships within the business.
What exactly is empathy, and why is it important for a leader to be empathetic? Empathy is a word that has been used much more frequently as of late, and sometimes without merit or accurate understanding of the meaning of the word. Empathy is what a person can express because of the ability to conceptualize situational understanding, having a keen awareness of, being sensitive to, and actively experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and overall experience that another person has gone through, whether that incident occurred in the past or present, without having had the experience themselves. When someone in a leadership role practices empathy, it will improve your employees’ overall engagement and help forge a culture of togetherness centered on betterment and support. A leader who is empathetic to their other employees’ circumstances will set forth an environment of comfortability and loyalty.
Why Empathy in the Workplace Matters
Empathy in the workplace matters because it is an achievable and easy solution that you can implement to improve the overall engagement of your employees because it creates a culture that is centered on the betterment of your people. When a company begins leading with empathy at the forefront, we can guarantee that your overall work environment and airspace will shift toward genuinely happier employees and more productivity within your company.
Ways Leaders Can Show Empathy in the Workplace
There are so many ways that someone can begin showing empathy within the workplace—the simplest of these is being a good listener when an employee comes to you with a concern, acknowledging the issues that are being brought to your attention and having discussions, showing understanding and sincere concern to the people who are being brave enough to bring the topics to light. Practicing empathy will teach you how to be a better leader and give your employees a sense of relief when they pull into the parking lot for work each morning. Here are some other ways that you as a leader can easily employ the act of empathy in the workplace:
This is at the top of the list because there is such a thing as too much, no matter how dependable or able-bodied an employee may be at their job. An employee experiencing work burnout is highly likely today, and there is an even greater difficulty in separating work life from home life. Managers who practice leading with empathy can easily recognize signs of strain in the workplace and notice those who are overworked. Several solutions or preventive measures can be taken before work burnout becomes a significant issue, which can result in turnover if not corrected. Checking in with your employees and actively listening to their problems, discussing workloads, and offering helpful solutions to tackle projects are quality ways to take care of employees in an empathetic manner.
Allowing employees flexibility within the workplace is a prime factor in creating a favorable, enjoyable work environment. A good work-life balance is essential to keep the workplace morale elevated and make your employees feel truly appreciated for all their hard work.
When an employee feels the emotional embrace and support from their company, you can be assured that they will give you their best every single working day. Unconditional support is the most important thing to implement as an empathetic leader to your employees because they will be unafraid to take on new challenges within their work and help with overall company growth.
When there are excellent lines of communication between leaders and their employees, you are far better set up to gain support from those in your workforce. If you express complete transparency and genuineness during communications, you effectively encourage the same response from your employees. During times of trouble or need, another great thing you can do is form support groups and encourage employees to share how they cope with any difficulties in their lives, whether the situation is something that happened during work or a health-related incident that has come up in their personal lives.
Showing Curiosity and Practicing Active Listening
Showing curiosity and using active listening skills will allow you as a leader to exhibit openness to different ideas and perspectives you may not have thought about before. It also shows that you are willing to better understand what experiences the people you work with have had in their lives. Active listening allows you to hear and understand any factual information being presented while also understanding any associated feelings. Being a curious, active listening leader lets you empathize and connect with your employees on another level. When a culture is built using active listening and curiosity as significant players, you will be able to work through all the challenges your company may face.
Exhibiting Self-Awareness and Humility
The most critical time for a leader to step up is especially during those challenging times that inevitably arise. You are not expected to know everything and don’t have to have all of the answers because you are human, too, and your employees know that. Though your team will look to you for clarity in situations and directions about what they should be doing next, if you find yourself in a situation where you do not know the answers—it’s okay. Admitting that you are unsure of what to do at that exact moment and the ability of an empathetic leader to share their own concerns regarding the situation will show your employees that you have self-awareness and humility. Sharing your ideas, hopes, and desires to come together to form solutions as a team will allow you to build trust and communications.
Investing in Work Relationships
The best thing about an empathetic leader is that they are really invested and interested in the people they work with. They know when an employee is feeling stressed from their workload or having difficulty with the slope of the learning curve of the position and are better equipped at addressing any troubles they may be having. When you invest your time into learning more about your team members individually, it will be encouraging. It will make your employees want to be more successful within the company and foster relationships with their coworkers. We recommend daily or weekly meetings at the start of the day to go over schedules, check-in with everyone, assess employee morale, and maybe even try implementing a fun activity to boost moods. Putting time into doing this regularly will help you deepen relationships with employees and build trust.
Expectations and Feedback
Leading with empathy doesn’t equate to you being soft on position expectations or associated results; a job still needs to get done to the standards that have been initially set for the role. Empathetic leaders know how to properly address the opportunities where a learning moment can occur without coming across as abrasive to the employee. Leaders also understand that setting clear expectations, being there for coaching and morale-boosting, and giving employees feedback is essential for employee and team success. Leaders who use empathy can help each individual and the team as a whole surpass the set expectations, navigate any challenges encountered, take ownership for their mistakes, and foster an environment where employees can fail, learn from those failures, and go on to succeed.
Together You Can Build Empathy Into Your Company’s Culture
The most important goal that a company should be putting into development is to create an empathetic and supportive workplace atmosphere that will allow all employees to thrive, both professionally and personally. When employees feel supported by empathetic leadership, there is no limit to the potential that you can create together. Culture is a main driver of a company’s success, retention and overall productivity as well as profitability.
Experienced Chief Executive Addiction Recovery and Mental Health Professional
Business professional in the Addiction Recovery and Mental Health industry for the past 26 years. Caring, compassionate and strongly motivated to make a difference in the organizations I am affiliated with and welfare of the population we serve. Currently focused on advocating, educating and developing projects leveraging evidence based, real time technology to support individuals in recovery.