Empathy in the Workplace

Empathy represents the ability to understand someone else’s thoughts and feelings. In other words: compassion. Listening to your coworkers and taking their concerns into consideration. Creating empathy in the workplace is important to ensure productivity and staff wellbeing.

The importance of empathy in business is rooted in data. According to Businessolver’s 2017 Workplace Empathy Monitorreport, empathy has a direct impact on employee productivity, loyalty, and engagement.

  • 77% of workers would be willing to work more hours for a more empathetic workplace; meanwhile, 60% would actually accept a slashed salary for the same.
  • 92% of HR professionals note that a compassionate workplace is a major factor for employee retention.
  • 80% of millennials noted that they would leave their current job if their office became less empathetic. 66% of Baby Boomers also shared this sentiment.

Rethink how you listen to create empathy

When your coworkers come to you with questions and concerns, how well are you listening?

Here’s some food for thought: most employees don’t actually listen to what their colleagues have to say. Claiming to be a “good listener” simply isn’t enough in a world where 30% of employees feel their opinions don’t matter.

Actively listening to your coworkers requires effort, plain and simple. As a support-based employee, each email, ticket or face-to-face conversation with your colleagues deserves your full attention. Understand that your time spent in the workplace is just as valuable as theirs is and better listening means solving their problems in a timely manner. 

Master the Art of Asking Questions

Exercising empathy for coworkers means not only being a good listener but also asking the right questions to get to the root of your colleagues’ problems.

When you ask thoughtful questions of your coworkers, you’re basically saying, “Okay, I hear you. What can I do to help? How are we going to take care of this?”

Questions asked of your employees should be specific rather a blanket, one-size-fits-all response. Workers deserve to have their concerns heard and understood.

Walk in Your Coworkers’ Shoes

To paraphrase the classic quote from To Kill a Mockingbird, you never really get to know a person until you walk around in their shoes. In the workplace, this means approaching your coworkers’ concerns with an open mind.

Don’t forget the roles and responsibilities in your office that are worlds away from your own. Unless you’ve shadowed your coworkers or have worked in their position, you may have little to no grasp on what their day-to-day duties look like in action. The average week for someone in the marketing or accounting department may very well look like night and day versus IT or HR.

Avoid Making Assumptions

On a related note, give your coworkers the benefit of the doubt before passing judgment on their behavior in the office.

Let’s say a new hire is having trouble adhering to a particular policy. You could assume that they’re being negligent or otherwise aloof, but chances are they’re simply adjusting to a new way of thinking. Both adopting and breaking away from workplace rituals takes time and you should respect that.

Don’t Keep Your Coworkers at Arm’s Length

According to TINYpulse, coworkers are the number one aspect of workplaces that drive employees to like their jobs.

Supporting your coworkers means more than responding to emails and service requests. Positive workplace relationships make empathy much easier as you get to know your coworkers as people rather than email addresses or departments.

Accept That Empathy Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Your quest for a more empathetic workplace is a marathon, not a sprint.

Learning how to develop empathy skills such as patience, keen listening, and asking thoughtful questions takes time. The more you interact and become comfortable with your team, the easier it becomes to show them compassion.

Contact us if you need any further guidance on creating empathy in the workplace.