Empathy means productivity in today’s workplace

April 7, 2022

Today’s successful leaders need to be able to work effectively with people across cross-functional teams that are vastly diverse. Thus, the need for them to be people-centric has drastically increased. Especially over the last two years, with the pandemic mainstreaming remote working amidst crisis, it has become vital for businesses to attract and train talent that can guide their organizations through both good and bad times. This necessitates going beyond typical management development tactics and competencies and building the most crucial skills and traits for success.

One of them, somewhat unexpectedly, is empathy.

What is empathy?

Empathy is the ability to understand and relate to another person’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences. Empathetic people are good at seeing things from another person’s point of view and reacting compassionately.

Empathy in the workplace simply means that your employees are able to build genuine, empathetic bonds with one another, which improves relationships and productivity.

It’s crucial to distinguish between compassion and empathy, as the two are frequently confused.

  • Sympathy is characterized by sentiments of pity for another person, yet without fully comprehending what it feels like to be in their shoes.
  • Empathy is the aptitude or skill to imagine oneself in another’s situation, experiencing that person’s emotions, ideas, or perspectives.

Empathy entails being able to recognise and understand others’ needs, as well as their feelings and thoughts. Unfortunately, it’s long been disregarded as “just another soft skill” rather than a powerful emotional intelligence trait that’s proven to be a fantastic performance indicator. There is enough research to back this.

Why is empathy important in the workplace?

According to the Centre for Creative Leadership’s research, today’s successful leaders must be more “person-focused” and able to collaborate effectively with people from various teams, departments, nations, cultures, and backgrounds. Their white paper stated that empathy in the workplace is positively related to job performance. The post-pandemic world has reinforced this claim as productivity and empathy saw a direct correlation over the last two years. This was unexpected for many, but not surprising. The pandemic only accelerated the need for something that is actually fundamental to building a future-ready team.

In other words, bosses regard managers who exercise empathetic leadership toward direct reportees as higher-performing employees. This is true, whether people believe it or not. Managers who were assessed as empathic by their subordinates were likewise recognised as excellent performers by their bosses. It is safe to say that empathy increases work productivity and overall job satisfaction by developing leadership, strengthening relationships, and fostering work productivity.

In fact, statistics show that empathy became an integral part of the workplace right before the pandemic, but the spillover is visible only now. The 2019 Workplace Empathy Study showed that 90% of employees believed empathy is vital in the workplace, and eight out of ten employees were likely to leave an employer who wasn’t empathetic.

The realization thus amongst most employers is that compassion and the ability to connect with others are essential skills in both our personal and professional life. Empathy in the workplace, which is a crucial component of emotional intelligence and leadership effectiveness, improves human connections in general and can lead to more effective communication and beneficial outcomes in both the workplace and at home.

Here are some advantages of being empathic at work:

  1. It facilitates communication.
  2. It helps to improve professional relationships.
  3. It helps you think more creatively.
  4. It enhances the number of sales and investment options available.
  5. It helps to improve customer service.
  6. It has an impact on employment interviews.
  7. It boosts productivity.
  8. It improves cultural competence.

But what changed with the pandemic?

COVID-19 came as a test in time. Businesses lost and are losing talent in droves. Many of us are emotionally and physically exhausted, facing burnout, which the WHO went on to define as “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. Individuals, not organizations or cultures, are now thought to be the source of burnout. “The responsibility for managing it [burnout] has shifted away from the individual and towards the organization”, said an article in the Harvard Business Review. It is now the responsibility of the corporation to help their employees.

The blurring of home and work life has been one of the major difficulties, leading to a rise in loneliness and social isolation. This lack of limits, combined with rising financial strain and concerns about job security, has resulted in a drop in mental health and an increase in anxiety. As Microsoft’s Satya Nadella said, “Work from home feels like sleeping at work.”

In a global survey conducted by Qualtrics, two-in-five respondents (41.6%) claimed their mental health had deteriorated since the onset of COVID-19, while 57.2 percent indicated increased worry. Empathy can be quite helpful in dealing with these problems. It fosters a sense of belonging by reaffirming that employees’ opinions count and that their voices are heard.

How does this play out IRL?

Empathy allows you to better relate to your coworkers and clients. Knowing how to be empathetic can help you enhance communication and build great relationships at work, resulting in a more positive work environment. Employers are now focussing on measuring and developing prospective, as well as current employees to ensure they not only understand empathy but actively practice it.

Fundamento helps organizations do this in a big way. Our intelligent platform helps them get objective data on employee performance specifically with regards to how empathetic they are. This is done through interactive quizzes that allow us to extract predictive data which can precisely map an employee’s overall performance in a certain role.

Each person is distinct in terms of their values, cultural understandings, backgrounds, and perspectives. When working on these types of teams, you may use your capacity to empathize and understand others to good use. Measuring skills and traits is important to develop enduring teams that are ready for the future. Empathy is only one of those traits, but a crucial one.

Written by Aryaman Kakkar

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