9 Critical Rules To Grow Workplace Empathy

“Empathy represents the foundational skill for all the social competencies important for work.”

— Daniel Goleman

Understand this. People do not leave organizations, people leave managers. In my entire corporate years, I remember only those managers and leaders I connected with.

Connection is absolutely necessary if you want to be the titan of any business, organization or entrepreneurship. And empathy is that golden key that connects you with others.

Go Deep!

Empathy is not sympathy. What is the difference?

Sympathy is feeling sorry or pity the hardship of another. Empathy goes much deeper. Empathy is the rare ability where one person actually understands and feel another person’s emotions, problems, and perspectives. In sympathy your emotions are towards a person. In empathy your emotions are with the person.

Why Empathy?

According to a CNBC 2018 study, 60% of employees would take a pay cut to work for an “empathic organization”. What does this mean? It is not money but emotional connection, meaning, and purpose that increases engagement and productivity.

Your success depends on people: your team, customers, audience. You cannot build the next Microsoft without the support of hundreds or even thousands of people. If a person feels that you “get them”, you’re going to move up on their list. Simple.

On June 15, 2014, Bill Gates, spoke to Stanford grads about channeling optimism into conviction to make things better.

“If we have optimism, but we don’t have empathy,” he said, “then it doesn’t matter how much we master the secrets of science. We’re not really solving problems; we’re just working on puzzles.”

It is not easy to keep your own emotions aside to understand someone else’s emotions. But remembering these 9 crticial rules can raise the bar of empathy in your workplace:

  1. People Want Recognition
    Value the person and not just the productivity. Give appreciation to the talents and gifts that a person brings into the organization. Give genuine recognition and make it memorable with words like: “You are an asset to this team because…”
  2. Take Off Your Rosy Glasses
    Challenge Your Own Unconscious Bias – What are those unconscious conditionings, and beliefs that are impacting negatively the way you communicate and react? I have heard coaches yelling, “If you run like a girl, I will give you a purse.” Or Recruitment Heads saying, “Harvard grad is a safe bet.” Which bias is your blind spot?
  3. Look Again
    Stay fluid with your perspective. Can you see a different point of view? There was a time when people thought Earth was flat. They fought around the same notion for years until new facts came in light. Changing how you look at things can dramatically change how results pan out.
  4. We All Want To Feel Heard
    Listen actively, listen mindfully, and listen whole heartedly. Do not listen just for the sake of it. It is not about just listening to the voice, but also observing the tone, the body language, the energy behind the voice. What is the motive and emotion behind what’s being said?
  5. Everyone is Emotional
    Not Advice But Curiosity – People don’t care about your opinions. Show curiosity by using your emotional vocabulary. Try to understand the emotions of others with open-ended questions, “How do you feel about it?” “What would be helpful?” Don’t let your employees suffer in silence. Create space for relationship building conversations to happen.
  6. People Are Lonely
    Smile & Relax – This will build connection. A simple smile can bring positive energy, and openness into interaction. When you relax, others feel safe in your space to communicate.
  7. We Are Self-Absorbed
    Be fully present in the moment. Stop checking emails or taking phone calls while talking to someone. It is rude. This will make others feel that you do not value them as people.
  8. Are You Authentic?
    It’s ok not to be ok. Expressing vulnerability is a crucial step in Emotional Mastery. Don’t sweep problems under the carpet. Own up to the challenges. Show your people that as a company you are really trying. You will gain trust and respect.
  9. Don’t Ignore Empathy
    That can cost you thousands of dollars. You fail to understand emotions, you lose your best people. So, why not start by trying at least to get more interested in others’ issues and concerns.

Results come from people. So you want results? Practice Empathy.

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