November 13, 2017

Why empathy should play a role in your work culture

If you’re at work, look around you – you’ll notice a range of personalities, backgrounds, and skills that make up your workplace, all contributing to the success of the business. Since that diversity plays such a crucial role in your work environment, you should take the time to build a unique and personal relationship with each team member.

This is where empathy – being able to understand and share the emotions of others – comes in. Empathy can impact your company culture on a deep level, so it should be a key component of everything from team leadership to customer relations. Here’s how empathy can boost your work culture – and even your customer relationships:

1) Leaders who learn

Empathy is an important characteristic for people in leadership positions. They should be skilled at understanding those around them, because a leader who helps others feel valued can create a culture of trust throughout the business. For example, in one study conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership, empathy displayed from a leader directly impacted job performance ratings in those they manage. In other words, an employee who feels like their leadership takes the time to understand their feelings will respect them more – and so will upper management.

Ways to help leaders become more empathetic include active-listening training, learning how to interpret the meaning behind others’ statements, and taking the time to feel compassion for others. As the report states, “As managers hone their empathy skills through listening, perspective taking, and compassion, they are improving their leadership effectiveness and increasing the chances of success in the job.” Who doesn’t want that?

“An employee who feels like their leadership takes the time to understand their feelings will respect them more – and so will upper management.”

2) Teams that value their members

Most people need to feel understood as individuals before they can fully commit themselves to a team. That’s why it’s important to cultivate empathy between team members. As the old saying goes, you can never understand someone until you walk in their shoes. For a team, this means understanding the perspective of everyone that you’re working with.

Classic team building exercises, which involve getting out of the office and spending time with each other, are a great way to foster empathy. By being in a different environment outside of the regular hustle, teammates can deeply listen to each other more easily. They might even learn about their coworkers’ lives outside of the office. Doing so will make everyone feel more relatable, which will create a closer team and a sense of unity towards achieving larger business goals. Turns out, there’s an “I” in team, after all!

3) Customer communication

This is a pretty simple point, but one that a lot of companies fail to emphasize: A culture of empathy doesn’t stop within your office walls. It should extend to customer relations, as well.  Believe it or not, customers respond well to your product when you care enough to understand where they’re coming from.

Having a more empathetic approach to your customer interactions will help you solve customer service requests by listening before acting. Be sure to listen carefully and ask questions rather than assuming what comes next. As the Harvard Business Review says, “This can be harder than it sounds, because you have to let go of the notion that you know what’s best or have the right answer.” Empathy and understanding will help decipher the heart of your customer’s needs so you can address them in a more human way.

Knowing how to practice empathy will result in better business. And when your customers feel cared for, they’ll keep coming back.


How has empathy helped you in your workplace? Share your stories in the comments!

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