Elizabeth Leif, Intern, Grays Peak Strategies
What are the skills and characteristics needed to do your job? Would you consider empathy as being one of them?
Empathy goes beyond what sympathy is; if a person is empathetic they are able to experience and relate to the other person’s thoughts, emotions, and experiences rather than just understand them (Center for Creative Leadership, 2016). While being empathetic may come naturally to some people, it is a skill that can be learned.
So why do you need empathy in a work setting? A study suggests that showing empathetic emotion is a major factor in a leader’s performance (Gentry, Weber, Sadri, 2016). A leader is not merely the person guiding the way, but is lifting up the team members to their full potential as well. Employees indicating that their manager showed more empathetic emotion lead to higher job performance ratings of leaders by the leaders’ bosses. Leaders with higher job performance ratings are assets to organizations because they create a more effective workplace.
An article by Boyers (2013) theorizes that leaders who are capable of expressing empathy are able to experience the needs of the business and their clients, which makes them successful. Boyers states that using empathy in communication vastly increases opportunities for collaboration as well as investment on a given project.
On top of enhancing performance and increasing collaboration, empathy improves our interactions with people with cultural differences. In the Human Services arena, we all interact with very diverse cultures and people dealing with very personal issues, it is absolutely essential to be culturally competent and to approach all people with empathy in order to improve relationships and understanding between one another. Showing empathy in this way also builds trust, and helps improve the outcomes for the people you serve.
While it may seem strange at first that empathy is a behind the scenes performer in businesses, it is no longer a shock if you consider basic human experience. Consider your fist day at your job, you may have been nervous, but perhaps someone reminded you that everyone else there had a first day at that office too. That coworker expressed their ability to experience what you were feeling and put you at ease. This showed empathy on the behalf of your coworker and left you feeling validated, which is what everyone deserves to feel.
So how can you cultivate empathy at work? One way is to talk about it to leaders so they understand that empathy is important for building the business (Devadason, 2017). The other necessary way is to train people to be empathetic through assistance with active listening skills, giving feedback, and the difference between I vs. you statements.
Empathy should be a skill that comes to mind when asked about your job no matter your position. If you are a manager or in a leadership position, then it is essential to show empathy in order to peak performance. Empathy will benefit the workers, the clients, and the business reputation if carried out effectively, which is what makes it powerful.
At Grays Peak Strategies, we focus on helping our clients achieve excellence in whatever discipline they represent. We consider empathy a core value that we practice, and critical to achieving success. As this is part of our own culture, we bring this to all of our client engagements as well. Feel free to contact us for more information on this topic, and to learn how Grays Peak Strategies can help your organization achieve excellence.
Boyers, J. (2013). Why empathy is the force that moves business forward. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashoka/2013/05/30/why-empathy-is-the-force-that-moves-business-forward/
Devadason, L. (2017). 3 ways you can develop empathy at the workplace. Leaderonomics.com. Retrieved from https://leaderonomics.com/leadership/3-ways-develop-empathy-workplace
Gentry, W. A., Weber, T. J., & Sadri, G. (2016). Empathy in the workplace: A tool for effective leadership. Center for Creative Leadership. Retrieved from http://www.ccl.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/EmpathyInTheWorkplace.pdf