Adopting an Empathetic Culture
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Imagine walking into your office on a Monday morning and nobody says hello to you or acknowledges your presence? That would be very disheartening wouldn’t it! It is human instinct that we like to work in an environment where people are empathetic towards each other and are mindful of each other’s feelings – this all builds from empathy. Empathy is a skill, to empathise you need to be able to recognise and understand other people feelings and perspectives. Culture in a workplace is driven from the top down.
Below are some ways you as a manager can build empathy in the workplace:
As a leader dealing with someone that is under performing or displaying behavioural issues the fist thing you need to do is ask discovery questions. Is this a sudden change? Is there something in or out of the workplace causing these results? When talking with your team ensure you are actively listening, use verbal and non-verbal cues to showcase this. Once you have listened to the situation you can use your empathy skills. Showing your team member that you have listened and understand their situation without coming in heavy with a pre-conceived idea or action helps them to feel comfortable, valued and starts to build trust with you. These things are all key to creating a good work culture and engaging your team members which overall helps to increase productivity and performance.
Put yourself in others shoes
Leading by example and encouraging people to put themselves into other people’s shoes - be it the internal team, external stakeholders or customers you are promoting an environment where people genuinely care about one another and naturally this will strengthen your team.
Remove the bias
When adopting an empathetic culture as a leader you do need to be aware of your own limitations with regards to understanding others situations. If you are working with someone that has had very different life to you be it education, family situation or anything else it can be difficult to empathise as you have never experienced similar. As long as you are aware of how your experience may be limited then you should still be able to understand how that may affect someone even if you may never personally experience the situation. This is important because if we only empathise with people that have had similar experience to us we can run the risk of being bias toward these people, potentially treating them differently or better because we have actually been in their shoes.
Another thing to be mindful of is the emotional burden of other people’s issues. When empathising with someone you need to be present in the moment to actually connect with them but you also need to be able to manage not to take on everybody’s problems. If you had a team of 10 people each with their own complex issues and emotions if you take it all onboard your self you will have nothing left to give.
Overall I see empathy as a positive way to connect with your work colleagues, to create a team that care and have each other’s backs and to build a trust with your team. Empathy does have a place in the workplace and like I have mentioned, in the beginning, be the one to wish good mornings to your co-workers, be supportive and have fun.
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