As with self-awareness, empathy involves scanning large data sets, identifying noise, and what is essential information. The process is not that different from what a stock analyst does when analyzing the market and looking for signals, anomalies, and new patterns that pop up and point it out, realizing that something important is happening.
Lack of empathy is a significant cause of the tsunami of sexual harassment incidents that have dominated recent news and led to successful leaders’ departure. Commenting on an employee’s body, or worse, catching it, requires empathy failure. If a boss were willing to put himself in the employee’s shoes and understand how she would feel if subjected to her actions, she would be much less likely to do what she is doing. Can empathy be learned?
In a certain way. The ability to empathize is an innate human trait, and, like all of that, there is a spectrum of strengths and weaknesses. Some people are more naturally good at feeling the experience of others quickly. Some of my clients have to be taught to build an “empathic wall”: too much awareness of the feelings of others cripples their ability to make decisions that lead to disappointment or negative emotions.
The reason empathy is so important is that workplaces include humans. People need understanding, support, and care to grow truly. Since organizations today rely primarily on teams’ success, empathy automatically becomes a top priority for leaders to nurture and nurture.
Empathetic workplaces promote more vital collaboration, less stress, and higher morale. As a result, people are more productive, happier, and more loyal. Besides, employees in empathic workplaces are much more likely to recover from a professional and personal setback.
Let’s take a look at four ways you can foster empathy in your employees:
1. Emphasize the “right behavior.”
Each workplace has its unique mix of people, some of which are most often disregarded and spoken over by the more outgoing people. In such scenarios, it becomes effortless to glorify toxic traits. It contradicts what corporate culture represents versus what we wanted it to be.
Thus, a leader must encourage the right values and draw attention. Your employees should see the workplace as a safe place where they can be themselves and express their views without fear of retaliation or retribution.
Emphasize the importance of teamwork, friendship, and bonding over the usual toxic and unhealthy competition. Eliminate all forms of favoritism and treat everyone equally and with respect. Recognize people who display positive behaviors in the workplace to set a precedent for others to follow.
2. Emotional Training
While many of your employees may seem incapable of coping with empathy, it’s because they never learned how to do it. The idea of encouraging emotions in the workplace isn’t something that companies spend a lot of time on.
But it’s essential to do this. Workers lacking empathy could produce extraordinarily fantastic results, but they find it difficult to perform even in a team. So, you need to take some steps necessary to introduce your workforce to practicing empathy and using it to live more productive and happy lives.
3. Defend the cause
The best way to help your employees understand the importance of an empathy-led culture is to find the right advocates.
One way to do this is to identify the key players in your organization. Some employees exert significant influence over others, think, behave, and act. To indeed lay the foundation for an empathetic culture, these protagonists can go a long way in driving the change. Your job is to involve them in initiatives and get their help to support an emotionally healthy work environment.
Moreover, you can also take the help of external influences. Call in some of the industry’s top empaths who have valued being “first” to deliver a speech at your company. Not only permanent employees but also senior managers will benefit from it.
4. Set Empathetic Policies
While encouraging employee empathy is an essential first step, your efforts would have been wasted without your part’s resulting initiatives.
Here are some of the ways a leader can ensure and establish the importance of empathy in corporate culture:
- Free time paid for personal loss or crisis
- Mourning leaves
- Ensure female employees the necessary support during the pre and post-pregnancy period
- Address the essential issues of diversity and inclusion that employees face daily
- Recognize people who are doing their best to make life easier for their peers