How to develop empathy at work? Empathizing at work means demonstrating the ability to understand another’s emotions and point of view. In other words, it is putting yourself in the shoes of colleagues, managers, and customers.
For concept, we need to clarify that empathy is not a feeling but a socio-emotional skill. Nevertheless, it is an essential trait in emotional intelligence, as it allows you to recognize, understand and respond to others’ emotions accurately.
Unlike compassion, which makes us share the pain of others, empathy makes us feel the experience of others in our skin, but without losing the notion that it is another person’s vision.
This makes it easier to manage relationships and reconcile interests within the company. Therefore, the empathetic professional can connect more easily with people, work as a team and put mutual collaboration into practice.
Therefore, we can say that empathy is part of the most desired soft skills (behavioral skills) in the workplace. When incorporated into the organizational culture, it has a decisive impact on internal communication and productivity and a higher level of engagement.
How to develop empathy at work: step by step
To develop empathy at work, you must implement cultural and managerial changes in the company. Do you not know where to start? See some suggested ways to get there.
1. Form empathic leadership
It’s no use putting empathy in the company’s speeches if it is not present in management practices? Therefore, one of the first steps to providing this emotional skill within the business is to form truly empathetic leaders.
But how to do this?
The first step is to empower your managers based on the principles of positive leadership. It involves active listening to employees, understanding the different professional profiles, and non-violent communication. In this way, leaders will act as ambassadors in promoting an empathetic culture in the organization.
2. Invest incorporate listening
Corporate listening is the main banner of the Power of Listening movement and one of the pillars of empathy at work. After all, empathetic management listens to what its employees have to say, values their opinions, and generates a sense of belonging in the teams.
For this, it is essential that you create open communication channels, promote the flow of ideas, and make each employee feel that their voice is valuable. And remember that the practice of active listening requires a focus on people’s needs and feelings and not just the act of listening.
3. Offer flexibility
Flexibility is another essential point in the empathic culture, as it is directly linked to humanization in the work environment. In practice, it means offering options so that employees can better balance their personal and professional lives, thinking about the well-being of people.
Some examples are:
- Flexible hours
- Partial or complete home office policy for certain positions
- Extended maternity and paternity leave.
- These and other measures demonstrate the company’s concern with the employee’s quality of life.
Following this path is one of the most significant proofs that the company practices empathy at work. At the same time, it indicates that managers can put themselves in the place of their subordinates.
4. Promote dialogues and exchange ideas
When it comes to empathy at work, the free exchange of ideas is an essential requirement. Your employees need to feel free to share opinions and have frank conversations with each other.
For this, it is interesting to create spaces for coexistence that encourage the breaking of barriers between areas. It is also worth using collaborative technologies such as corporate social networks.
The idea is that no one is afraid to share their feelings and give opinions for fear of other people’s judgment.
5. Value learning and innovation
Empathy at work also involves a culture of learning and innovation. It’s critical to recognize that mistakes are unavoidable and, from there, encourage employees to put their ideas into practice.
In an empathic environment, no one will be judged because they tried and failed the first time. On the contrary: the employee will be encouraged to correct mistakes, improve and achieve success with productive feedback.
6. Practice recognition
Every employee wishes to be acknowledged for their contributions and efforts, which can be an effective way to develop empathy. To do this, create incentive and reward programs for those who reach goals.
Also, try to encourage leaders to recognize each achievement of their employees. In a work environment where people feel valued and belonging, the tendency is to have better and better results.
7. Promote diversity and inclusion
A corporation that values diversity and inclusion is far more likely to foster empathy among its employees. This is because one of the bases of the empathic view is to recognize, accept and deal with the other’s differences.
The more different points of view, stories, origins, and opinions coexist in the same space, the greater the potential for the development of empathy.
Dynamics about empathy at work
For a more practical activity, you can propose dynamics on empathy at work and thus encourage employees.
After all, we don’t always have the opportunity to focus on others and understand their feelings daily. Also, many people don’t know how to exercise this skill.
An interesting dynamic would be the “If I were you,” which encourages employees to put themselves in their colleague’s shoes in a playful way.
To apply this activity, you only need to distribute pen and paper to the participants in one room. So, each professional should be instructed to write a small personal profile on the sheet, containing information such as:
- name or surname
- Marital status and if you have children and pets
- Position and function within the company
- main hobbies
- Areas of interest.
Then you must collect the papers and distribute them randomly so that no one gets their sheet.
With the profile in hand, each employee must imagine where this person will be in 5 years and share their perspectives on the future of their colleague with the team. This exercise is fascinating to bring people together, help teams get to know each other better and promote empathy.
This is because the professional needs to take the colleague’s point of view and use creativity to think of personal and professional goals based on the information received. The result is usually quite fun and fulfills its role of creating a more empathetic atmosphere.