Cultivating empathy in the workplace

Empathy is the natural human ability to feel what others feel

Empathy is the natural human ability to feel what others feel.  This trait allows us to connect, be compassionate and understand others both personally and professionally. Empathy is vital in an organization because it makes a workplace fruitful. After all, employees are honest, transparent, and human. Empathy is divided into three as discussed below;

  • Cognitive Empathy: This refers to taking perspective where one knows and understands how the other person feels and what they might be thinking. It is more of putting yourself in the other person shoes, knowing when they are nervous, depressed, sad, and so on.
  • Emotional Empathy: After you have understood what your colleague is going through, putting yourself in their space emotionally best describes emotional empathy. An instance is when you see someone pressed with a door hinge. You wince because you feel their pain.
  • Compassionate Empathy: It is the balance between cognitive and emotional empathy without being overwhelmed by feelings.

How is empathy then cultivated in the workplace?

  1. Lending a listening ear

Pay attention to what your colleague is saying. You may be able to understand the entire message communicated beyond their words.

Take note of the emotional state, body language, or the phrases being used repeatedly by the person speaking or answering a question to get an idea of what they are going through at the moment. You can involve yourself deeply in their situation and work towards mitigating it and finding practical solutions.

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2. Understanding the other person perspective

When listening to the other person, keep your assumptions and beliefs to yourself and make room for their feelings. Also, try keeping an open and flexible mind. If you resonate with their pain, you can also open up by sharing your similar experiences. It will create a safe space for honest conversations because they will be comfortable sharing their story.

During such a period of vulnerability, It is not the time to debate how someone acted the way they have or why they did things the way they did in the workplace. Just give a listening ear, respect what they say, and forge towards resolving the issue.

3. Checking for signs of Burnout.

With the Covid-19 pandemic and all that is happening globally, people are stressed, depressed, and finding it hard to balance life at home and work. Therefore, employee disengagement is likely to be an issue. Look for signs of stress in your employees and colleagues by checking on them weekly or biweekly and find out how they are holding up and handling their workload.

4. Supporting employee’s aspirations and needs.

During discussions, everyone’s voice should count. This includes introverts who always shy away from any form of the spotlight. It acts as a  way of supporting your team members as empathetic leaders. It also increases productivity because employees feel motivated and dedicated to their work.

The highest form of knowledge is empathy. ― Bill Bullard

5. Begin from the top

The culture of empathy will only flow to the bottom of the pyramid in the organization when the top management empathizes with their subordinates. One tends to do things as instructed if the instructor does the same. Coworkers are stuck together by leaders who connect with them and tend to be generous even if they are not visible among colleagues.

6. Be authentic and honest.

With increased interaction barriers created by working remotely, leaders need to practice sharing their own experiences and stories. This allows employees to be more open and honest with their own experiences. Things like sharing how the pandemic is affecting you and changes you have made to cope with it will make you relatable to your team.

In conclusion, to achieve the desired organizational growth, everyone in the organization needs to collaborate and make the work environment more effective and productive with compassionate people that support each other.

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