In 2018, the State of Workplace Empathy study revealed that 96% of employees consider empathy, or the ability to put yourself in others’ shoes, to be an important trait. Yet 92% believe that it is not emphasized by their employers. With the mounting crises of 2020, empathy in the workplace is even more important than ever. Here’s what you need to know.
The effects of empathy
In too many workplaces, maintaining composure is valued over all else. Both employers and employees struggle to hide their emotions, creating robotic versions of themselves. This is not only highly stressful, but it prevents people from performing at their best.
When people are free to be their true, authentic selves, that’s when business magic occurs. In 1999, a landmark study showed that across industries as diverse as the military, multinational consulting, sales, and manufacturing, those with stronger empathy are consistently more successful. In 2019, the Harvard Business Review concurred, pointing out that empathy boosts collaboration, reduces stress, and creates more resilient employees.
So how can you create a more empathetic workplace? It all starts with people. Build human connections with your workers, and encourage them to create those bonds with each other. Emphasize trust by checking in regularly with your team members and teaching your managers to do the same. Create open lines of communication, and make time to ask people how they’re feeling. Additional steps to take include:
• Practice active listening: Listen closely when people are speaking rather than rushing to form a response. Make eye contact. Paraphrase what you heard them say, and ask for clarification when needed.
• Foster open discussions: Meetings should be genuinely open forums in which everyone’s input is recognized. Disagree and debate points respectfully, and remain open to information you may not have considered.
• Recognize achievements: Celebrate work-related milestones, such as hitting a performance goal, as well as personal milestones such as birthdays.
• Prioritize soft skills: Technical skills will always be important, but soft skills such as emotional intelligence should also be prioritized. Choose leaders who know how to motivate rather than control. The more your management team can lead by example, the more successful your organization can be.
Empathy is a vital but often overlooked part of workplace success. Focus on building your own empathy, and then look for ways to make it a key aspect of your overall company culture.
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