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Empathy in the Workplace

Hello again! 

We’re back with another blog post and excited to delve deeper into the importance of including empathy in the workplace. If you’ve been paying attention to the news recently, you may have noticed a lot of buzz about the post-COVID shift back into the traditional office setting.

This transition, as with many things in life, has been met with a dramatic mix of feelings. Many are thrilled to be back in the thick of things and are eager to get back to work in the way they had come to enjoy pre-COVID. Others, however, feel very strongly about the value of remote work and are experiencing a strong opposition to a return to the office. 

Regardless of your company’s decision, and regardless of your employees’ feelings on the topic, one thing is for sure: this is a time for empathy. We’ve been venturing into uncharted territory for over a year, and it looks as though that trend will continue. 

To quickly recap, “empathy” is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Rather than immediately judging and punishing negative behaviors, empathy asks us to question the source of these actions (or inactions) and try to understand how your team members might be feeling at that moment. 

There are a lot of reasons to incorporate a culture of empathy in your workplace, ranging from the atmosphere to productivity. Let’s explore the whys of empathy in the workplace!

Find the cause of the symptoms. 

Poor performance at work is always more than just poor performance. You can count on a root cause lying underneath the negative attitude, lateness, and missed deadlines. 

Similar to the goal of a doctor’s appointment, your goal needs to be uncovering that underlying cause rather than only focusing on the symptoms. If you simply focus on the negative behaviors, you will certainly be dealing with those behaviors again in the future.

By allowing yourself to “step into an employee’s shoes,” you are showing the employee that you care enough to help them and that you want to help them find success that is long-term and sustainable.

Communicate safety in failure.

We’re all familiar with the idea that failure = learning and improvement, but recognizing and implementing that philosophy in real-time can be easier said than done. 

That fact makes it even more important to prioritize it. If your team knows that failures will be dealt with empathetically, they will feel more comfortable in thinking creatively and resourcefully. 

This is not to say that missteps at work shouldn’t be corrected — they absolutely should. But when an employee knows they will be empathetically corrected, rather than blamed or punished, they are far more likely to reach effective, dynamic engagement. Employees who are actively engaged in their careers tend to be productive, happy, and inspiring to the people around them.

Reach new levels of excellence from your team. 

Taking the time to understand the root cause of your employees’ negative or problematic behaviors communicates to them that you are invested in their success. What if, with a kind and understanding approach, you could not only correct the behaviors but also encourage that employee to excel? 

Your goal doesn’t have to be complacent, manageable employees. With some compassion and deliberate effort, your work environment could be a genuinely positive, highly successful place to enjoy a career.