How to Use Empathy in the Workplace

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So many workplaces focus on the technical and analytical skills required that they forget a very important aspect: the ability for a manager or coworker to relate to a teammate. This doesn’t just mean on a professional level. Good employee relationships are also defined by empathy, which can connect coworkers together at a relatable emotional level.

What Is Empathy?

Empathy, as a term, is defined as an individual’s ability to relate to the feelings of other people — it’s the understanding of other people’s emotions and feelings. In the workplace, it’s the application of this understanding into the relationship one has with other teammates. In many places it’s also defined as compassion. Over 75% of employees have mentioned they would prefer a more empathetic workplace, which leaves many corporations who have been driven to a talent-based organization to fall somewhat short.

Empathy in the Workplace

The difficulty that many organizations have is understanding how workplace empathy fits into their standard performance management template. Normally, employees are judged on technical knowledge and business competence. Those employees who dedicate individual time and energy toward building relationships with other employees can be judged as teammates who don’t equally contribute; alternately, taking time to understand your coworkers at that level can require valuable working time from everyone involved in order to form that valuable bond.

How to Show Empathy at Work

So how does an employee show empathy at work in ways that will end up being positive? This can be achieved through active listening, asking good questions, prioritizing wisely and acknowledging workplace feelings.

Active Listening

Listening might seem easy, but meaningful listening requires effort. When employees are telling you things — whether you are a coworker or a manager — this is the action of hearing what they are saying, further connecting it to an understanding of their role and the space both of you inhabit in your business and the ability to change your own perceptions to interpret this individual’s point of view within your own framework.

Ask Good Questions

After making sure you are hearing the issues a coworker or employee is expressing, take this information, develop questions that will further develop the situation and make sure to ask them in a reasonable environment, such as email: Remembering our conversation last week, you mentioned you were interested in X. Can I get you some more information on that position? These sorts of situations end up benefiting everyone involved.

Prioritize Wisely

While you may think your employee’s issue sounds low-priority, it’s important that you give your department a high enough priority that they know you value them. A “first-come, first-served” policy won’t help everyone; you need to prioritize safety, security and operational excellence alongside your group’s personal issues in order to channel your action along a reasonable direction.

Acknowledge Workplace Feelings

Most of us have been trained to keep our emotions out of business dealings and to keep them formal and dry. The fact is, however, that acknowledging that these bonds exist and putting effort toward maintaining them will allow a better working relationship with other teammates. Showing that you understand an employee’s unique situation will only help to build a bond of trust, which fosters workplace communication.

Empathy in the Workplace Training

In the end, it’s important for both management and teammates to be able to connect to one another on this particular plane. In today’s modern workplace, where technical expertise may seem interchangeable, it’s really up to the team leaders to make that empathetic emotional connection with employees to help them begin to consider themselves part of the workplace. This can be achieved through empathy in the workplace activities like team-building.

Employees who feel an emotional connection to their work become more invested in the business, meaning they feel more dedicated to it and will dedicate more energy to helping the company succeed. Employers who can take advantage of this feeling will be able to see the benefits as teammates become more comfortable.