When you think of a leader, do you think of someone who works with their team to find the best way to complete tasks? Do the people you like to work with share their experiences and listen when you share yours? If you find these situations to be true, you are most likely working with fellow staff members who display empathy. We are not born with the skill, although it may be more natural to some. Most have to learn it, but is fundamental to effective leadership and being collaboratively productive at work.
What is Empathy?
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. More specifically, it is being able to relate to the thoughts, emotions, or experiences of others. Empathy is different from sympathy, which many people don’t understand. Sympathy is being able to support someone with compassion or kindness while also feeling pity or sorrow for their misfortune. The main difference between empathy and sympathy is that while sympathy reacts to someone’s situation, empathy makes an effort to put yourself in the same position.
The Bigger Brains course, Brain Bites – Empathy: The Key to Active Listening, covers the difference between sympathy and empathy. Additionally, this course will teach you to focus on active listening by noting body language, voice tone, and words.
Why is Empathy Important?
Empathy is essential both inside and outside office hours. Employees who practice empathy can contribute to a more inclusive and more welcoming work culture in the office. Additionally, when company leaders practice empathy, it can bring teams closer together and improve workplace communication.
Empathy is also important outside of businesses. Speaking and relating to others from a place of compassion can help people feel seen and cared for. These kinds of connections can improve relationships and encourage people to empathize with others in their life.
How does Empathy affect the Workplace?
Empathy can improve the workplace by encouraging employees to be more people-focused. This characteristic is highly beneficial in a constantly growing and changing world. These past few years have been educational in understanding the importance of diversity and inclusion. Incorporating empathy into workplace practices allows people to continue learning about diversity by working with people from varying teams, departments, cultures, countries, and backgrounds.
Workplace leaders need empathy to show team members that they care about employee needs and achievements. Additionally, empathy is positively related to job performance. Leaders who exhibit empathy towards their teams are more likely to be viewed as better performers by their supervisors and their subordinates. A study done by the Center for Creative Leadership shows that empathy plays an essential role in creating a climate of support and protection to promote successful job performance.