Traditionally, the workplace has been considered a cesspool of competition, a space that was ruled by deadlines and bottom lines. However, in the recent decade, employers have slowly woken up to the importance of having a kinder workplace.
At a time when employee attrition rates are astronomically high, the management has realized that the traditional incentives like salary and perks are not enough to keep the employees happy and incite loyalty.
Recent studies have shown that having empathetic leaders and inclusive organizational culture can go a long way in ensuring a high level of job satisfaction and securing the loyalty of the workforce. The management should therefore invest in ways of making employees empathetic.
According to 2021 survey conducted by management consultancy EY (Ernst & Young) over 55% workers had left their job because they felt the boss was not empathetic to their struggles at work.
• Most employees – nearly 90% consider empathetic leadership leads to a greater degree of job satisfaction.
• 79% agreed it reduces employee turnover.
Cultivating compassion and kindness at the office has several payoffs like a decrease in employee attrition rate, a more loyal workforce, and an enhanced brand reputation.
What Is Workplace Empathy?
Empathetic businesses are those that acknowledge the ‘human’ of the human capital. They are aware that people come with various personalities and a whole gamut of emotions. Leaders take a personal interest on building long-term relationships with the employees, come up with ways to makes employees empathetic, and ensure an office is a place where they are valued for their contribution and are safe from any discrimination. Employees who feel valued are more likely to pay it back through a higher degree of engagement and loyalty to the organization.
Why Empathy Can Be a Game changer for Your Business
Can Create a Loyal Workforce
As we have mentioned before, an empathetic environment at the office creates a higher degree of job satisfaction for the employees. Empathetic leaders do a great job of making employees feel valued. This creates a nice round-robin effect of making employees more loyal to the company.
Lack of Empathy Can Affect Employee Productivity
A study published in the Academy of Management Journal claimed that if people are surrounded by rude and inconsiderate co-workers and team leaders, their performance suffers and they are also less likely to help others.
Recently a survey conducted by Georgetown University found out that workplace incivility can lead to loss of work hours as productivity often plummeted. It also led to low rates of team morale and customer satisfaction. Employers should therefore invest in ways of making employees more empathetic.
Empathy fosters more innovation
A new study conducted by non-profit organization Catalyst found out that when managed by empathetic managers, employees are more likely to be innovative -61% as compared to 13% with less empathetic managers.
Generates a high amount of Employee Engagement
According to the study, 76% of people who have experienced empathy from their leaders reported they were more engaged than the 32% who worked with relatively less empathetic leaders. More reason for leaders to come up with ways to make employees more empathetic!
Many employees, especially women and those from marginalized communities, revealed that they are more likely to stay back with their organizations if they felt their life circumstances and idiosyncrasies were acknowledged and respected by the leaders.
Strengthens Team Morale
Having a rude and insensitive co-worker on board can ruin team dynamics. Uncooperative and inconsiderate team members often create an environment of uneasiness and incite resentment. This brings down team morale. A team who struggles to cooperate will also find it difficult to finish team-based projects on time. Managers should thus come up with ways of making employees empathetic.
How to Make Your Organization More Empathetic?
It all starts With the Leader
As with everything else, work culture and team dynamics are more often than not influenced by the personality and personal ethics of those at the top. If the leaders are known to be empathetic, the management doesn’t have to think of ways to make employees empathetic, the workers will also learn to value empathy in their day-to-day life.
• Don’t just talk the talk but walk the walk. According to an EY survey, many employees felt that an empathetic leader does not just preach the importance of kindness and compassion but follows through it through his actions. Other traits of empathetic leaders were described as follows:
Open and transparent
Follows Through Action
Encourages others to share their opinion
Trusted to handle difficult conversations
• Leaders don’t have to be experts in mental health to create a kinder, more empathetic workplace. All that requires is keeping in touch with employee feedback and making changes accordingly. Once in a while ask employees to submit their feedback on their experience through an anonymous survey.
• Make empathy a non-negotiable part of company policy and values. One of the best ways to make employees more empathetic is to establish policies against offensive behavior in the office such as using slurs, making personal remarks, speaking in a loud disrespectful tone, etc. Make it very clear that you won’t tolerate violation of these policies.
• Watch out for bullying. If you hear rumors of a team member treating their colleagues disrespectfully, or observe someone talking over others or belittling other employees, call it out.
Hire the right people
If you are looking to implement organizational values on a micro level, then you need the cooperation of people who think like you. This requires hiring candidates who are the right cultural fit for your organization. Look for candidates who have demonstrated they value empathy. Conduct psychometric tests to assess a candidate’s empathy levels before hiring them.
Practice seeing things from another person’s perspective
Empathy essentially consists of putting ourselves in other’s shoes. Not everyone is born empathetic but it is a virtue that can be developed with enough practice. Think about a person you disagree with. You may not agree with their views but try to consider what life experiences may have shaped their outlook today.
Question Your Biases
Most of us have in-built biases against certain people based on arbitrary factors like race, weight, height, body proportions, gender, etc. If these biases/prejudices go unchecked they can affect our attitude toward such people. Management should take care to ensure the workplace remains bias-free.
• Employers should establish strict policies against problematic attitudes such as misogynist behavior, homophobia, casteism, etc
• Make sure no one is hiring or promoting employees on any other criteria other than a proven track record as a performer.
• Refer to people with their chosen pronouns and names.
• When brainstorming, invite insights from all team members, not just a few.