Empathy at Work
What does it mean to show empathy at work and why does it matter? Empathy, in general, is the ability to understand and share another’s feelings. In the workplace, it translates into the skill of developing genuine connections with team members that improve relationships and, as a byproduct, increase team performance. Why should you want more empathetic leaders and managers?

We know from thousands of new manager training participants that one of the most important traits for leaders and managers who want to succeed is a sincere interest in learning about and supporting the individuals on their teams. And the research supports us.

Why It Matters
A recent article in Forbes entitled Empathy Is the Most Important Leadership Skill According to Research cites a study that lists the positive effects empathy can have on an organization. Here are a few:

  • Engagement
    More than twice as many employees (76%) reported being positively engaged in their work when they considered their leaders to be empathetic.
  • Innovation
    More than four times as many employees (63%) with empathetic leaders were able to be more innovative.
  • Work-Life Balance
    Significantly more workers (86% vs. 60%) with leaders they felt cared about them were able to achieve a better work-life balance.

How to Show Empathy
If, as a leader or manager, you want to develop your ability to empathize with your direct reports, here are three ways to begin:

  1. Be Sincerely Interested in the Individuals on Your Team
    Get to know them both personally and professionally. It’s simply a matter of devoting time and attention to your team members. If you know their talents, their interests, and their dreams, you can invest more wisely in their future and support their success.
  2. Tune in to Signs of Stress
    Keep in close touch with your team so you are aware of any signs of overwork. Be a good listener. Listen to not just the words but the feelings behind them. Are they on overload and stressed out? If so, be ready to ease the pressure.
  3. Support an Employee with Personal Problems
    If a co-worker is experiencing personal problems, try to find ways to support them. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of listening well to their troubles. Perhaps you can delegate or offload some of their responsibilities temporarily, offer more flexible work hours, or refer them to your organization’s counselors.

The Bottom Line
Not only does empathy support positive relationships and a healthy work culture but it also contributes to higher performance. More empathetic leaders and managers know how to get along with and support their team. How would you rate your empathy level? And how would your team rate you?

To learn more about how to be a better manager, download Do You Have High Performing Managers? The 4 Management Metrics that Matter Most

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