Empathy: What is it and why is it important in the workplace?

04 Nov 2016 Bryan Shaw

To understand empathy and how it applies to the workplace, you must first know what it means. Webster’s dictionary defines the term as a feeling that gives way to understanding and sharing another person’s experiences and emotions.

In simpler terms, empathy is the ability to step into someone else’s shoes, be aware of their feelings and understand their needs.

In the workplace, empathy can mean a show a respect for co-workers. An empathetic leadership style can make everyone feel like a team and increase productivity, morale and loyalty. Empathy is a powerful tool in the leadership belt of a well-liked and respected manager.

People’s perception of whether they are respected, regarded and valued by others, or not, depends on one’s background, experiences, values and beliefs. This is where co-workers or managers’ empathy is crucial to be able to deliver those feelings and use the proper words and expressions and how they are delivered.

Here are some tips to apply empathy in the workplace.

  1. The first step in learning, or acquiring, empathy starts from within by becoming self-aware; mainly of your own unconscious bias and prejudice. These feelings are natural to have, but its best that you not to take them to the next level.
  2. We need to remember that perceptions are realities for some. We may see it one way while another sees it a different way. Expecting others to act and behave the way we act and behave, or expecting people to meet us at our end, is insane.
  3. We need to have the self-discipline to either change our attitudes, become open minded or seek help from other mangers and co-workers.

Bottom line is that empathy takes work. When we understand each other, we have a better idea of the challenges ahead of us. It encourages others to understand the root cause behind poor performance. Being empathetic allows us to help struggling co-workers to improve and excel on the job, and that is what it’s all about.