No matter what stage you are in your career, chances are you have been taught to leave empathy out of the equation. If you recall, empathy is the ability to share and understand other’s emotions; however, at least 20 percent of U.S. employers offer empathy training for managers. Also, in a recent survey of over 150 CEOs, over 80 percent expressed that empathy is a key to success.
Empathetic workplaces offer a number of benefits: stronger collaboration, less stress, greater morale, and more. In fact, employees who work for more empathetic employers bounce back more quickly from difficult moments. Despite conscious efforts made, many leaders still struggle to make empathy a recognized part of their organizational culture. This often causes a rift between what the culture executives want and what they already have. It’s up to organization leaders to put forth a company culture everyone can benefit from — this includes implementing a culture of empathy. In this post, we discuss why empathy is central to your company culture and key to personal connection.
Acknowledge the potential for growth
Empathy is viewed as a characteristic you either have or don’t have. Therefore, a lot of people believe learning it seems like a waste of time. People who have this fixed mindset around empathy work less to connect with others. If these beliefs spread across an organization, encouraging widespread empathy will just fall flat. But, mindsets—and people—can change. If you approach empathy as less of a trait and more like a skill, people will likely work harder for it, even if it doesn’t come naturally. The first step towards building empathy is acknowledging that it is possible. Leaders who wish to adopt empathy need to start by assessing the mindsets of their employees and encourage them to move towards it.
Highlight the right norms
The workplace is plagued by “phantom norms”, with team members expressing toxic attitudes, confusing colleagues about what is a norm and what is not. These norms can derail positive change when people conform to them. Leaders can fight back against phantom norms by focusing on right behaviors. More times than not, some individuals within an organization act kindly while others don’t. Some work together while others compete against each other. Those who are demonstrating empathy are the quiet majority. In order to foster empathy, leaders need to emphasize it, which in turn, will allow employees to see its prevalence, resulting in a positive norm.
Find and collaborate with culture leaders
One of the best ways to implement empathy into your company culture is to work with a team of “culture captains” whose job it is to encourage team cohesion even though it’s not part of their formal role. These individuals may not be the most powerful, but they are the most connected; information, ideas, and values flow through them. They can be an organization’s unsung influencers for all things culture. Leaders can begin by identifying connectors, recruiting culture captains for championing the cause. This increases the chance that new ideas will take across the organization. Not only does it allow for employees to be recognized for connecting with others, but it also highlights positive norms.
Make it about the relationships
At the core, empathy is all about relationships between you and another person. It is more than just understanding emotions; the ability to understand someone else’s point of view is essential for cooperative relationships. Additionally, empathy is also about understanding your own emotions and how they affect others. When leaders embrace empathy, they can be more successful in their role. Empathetic leaders must be strategic, which in the end, creates a stronger connection between leaders and workers within an organization. This results in a much more productive workplace.
A gateway to collaboration and teamwork
With our workplaces increasingly relying on team-based approaches to work, empathy is especially crucial to fostering a harmonic environment. Empathy helps team members collaborate and work more effectively. This awareness can help teammates see other points of view and collaborate with the idea put in place. Remote workers need to rely on empathy since they don’t get the benefit of face-to-face collaboration. By seeking out others’ opinions and point of view, you are able to better communicate with others and increase your empathy towards them.
The result? A functioning team that can take others’ emotions and opinions into consideration to execute on an idea for the better of the organization. Empathy needs to be part of an organization’ DNA. It must be implemented in a company’s culture and used to build change organically and collectively. Whether you have a foundation or need to build it from the bottom up, your organization will benefit greatly from what empathy has to offer.