What is Empathy? How Do You Make it Part of Company's culture?

Updated: Nov 24



The global pandemic has hit us all hard and changed the way people view their work. Today, employees are more concerned about their mental and physical well-being at work than ever before, and other concerns such as finances, job retention and many other personal issues are secondary. According to research, there is a positive correlation between a manager's job performance and their empathy. Empathic managers are seen as better leaders and achieve better results for the company. You need to care about your employees and show empathy for their feelings and emotions.


Have you ever thought about embedding empathy into your company culture? If not, now is the time to do so.

Empathy is being aware of, understanding, and being receptive to the feelings of others. According to Webster, it's the ability to vicariously empathize with the feelings of others, as if you have experienced the pain yourself.


The Cambridge Dictionary states, "Empathy is the ability to feel and experience another's pain and emotions by putting yourself in the same situation."


You can change the entire environment and the lives of employees by building empathy as part of the company culture. Here are some tips on how to cultivate empathy in the workplace.


1. Identify opportunities for growth

Empathy is not a personality trait, but a skill that can be learned through proper training. The first step to building a culture of empathy is to recognize its importance in the workplace and understand that without empathy, growth and productivity cannot be increased.


2. Empathy is the most important tool for employee engagement.


Nowadays, companies consider empathy as a tool to increase employee engagement because people feel what others feel. It leads to open communication between employees and customers. Empathic employees put themselves in the customers’ shoes and can better understand their situation and try to find alternatives to solve their problems instead of blindly saying a big "NO".


Showing empathy to new employees also gives them a chance to open up and do their jobs better. It is a common misconception that an employee who is quiet during meetings does not know how to do his or her job properly. Such employees are sometimes placed on probation. Actually, these employees are usually eager to learn and show their inner talent. A little empathy can boost their confidence and make them active members of the team.


3. Find leaders who value culture.

In every company, there are people who genuinely empathize with and listen to their colleagues, even if it's not part of their job. These people are the true leaders. They may not be as popular or authoritarian as managers, but their empathy makes them the most connected and engaged employees in the group.

When hiring, empathetic people should be preferred because they are the ones who connect empathy to the company culture. As a leader, you can work with these people to build an empathetic culture.


4. Train your leaders to actively listen.

When empathy becomes a part of your company culture, employees feel more connected and engaged, which ultimately increases the quality of products and services. HR Leaders should create training programs for the managers to become empathetic leaders. One important way to show empathy is to actively listen to employees. When this empathetic communication occurs, employees feel heard and valued. This makes them feel connected to you and the company, which leads to more loyal and trustworthy employees.


5. Measure progress with data

Research on empathy in the workplace shows that empathy makes leaders more effective at their jobs and is positively linked to job performance. It would be best to include this as a component in performance reviews to measure progress with facts and figures. HR Departments can use surveys and interviews to gather data on the impact of empathy on organizational performance and culture. The data will be useful in developing strategies to train and improve empathetic behaviors.


6. Encourage your employees to develop an empathetic culture.

Empathy is not about grand gestures; it's the little nudges that go a long way and become part of the company culture. But how can we measure the promotion of empathy? It's about the time leaders spend during a meeting or in emails to interrupt employees from time to time and praise those who have been empathetic to others.


7. Encourage and reward ethical behavior.

Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, emphasized the importance of empathy in the workplace in his 2017 keynote address at MIT. He is not alone in this opinion. A recent survey shows that out of 150 CEOs, 80% support empathy as part of the company culture. These leaders believe that an empathetic company culture fosters stronger collaboration, improved morale and better mental health. As a leader, you should always reward and encourage empathic behavior and demonstrate it through your actions. Take the initiative first and others will follow.


8. Implement empathetic policies.

You can encourage your employees all you want, but ultimately they will follow your lead. If you do not have the right policies in place that reflect an empathetic culture within the company, all your efforts could be for naught.

Here are some of the policies a HR department needs to put in place to create an empathetic culture

  • Grant employees leave and paid time off in the event of an emergency or personal loss.

  • If a person who has suffered a loss cannot resume work, give them time to grieve with bereavement leave.

  • Provide appropriate support to female employees during and after pregnancy.

  • Value employees who show empathy for others in a diverse culture and business environment.

  • Adopt policies to include employees in the decision-making process.


Conclusion

Empathy is an important skill for effective leadership. It improves employee engagement and productivity by fostering collaboration, reducing stress and increasing morale. When you put yourself in someone else's shoes and understand their situation, a bond of trust is formed. And trust is what makes people leave their comfort zone and work tirelessly toward common goals. Gone are the days when talking about your problems at work was frowned upon. Now you can talk openly about your inner feelings and make yourself heard and let others know where you are coming from, because empathy has become part of the culture in most companies.



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