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Empathy for leadership development

Empathy in the Workplace

As a leader, there are several skills you need to be successful: time management, organization, and communication, to name a few. However, being good at managing your workload and priorities only goes so far. Great leaders also have interpersonal skills and the ability to empathize with their employees. Leadership development programs in organizations should assess empathy gaps and provide leadership training to develop empathy skills.

Do you want to improve your relationships and focus on practicing empathy as a leader? Keep reading to learn more about this essential leadership skill and what it looks like in the workplace.

Defining Empathy in the Workplace

Empathy is the practice of attempting to understand and experience the emotions of others. Many people practice empathy in their personal lives without much thought. When a friend or family member expresses sadness or frustration, it’s second nature to put yourself in their shoes and express support. But in a professional setting, it’s harder to define this skill and put it into practice.

Research shows that empathy in the workplace positively influences job performance. A study involving 6731 managers in 38 countries revealed that managers who practice compassionate leadership toward direct reports are viewed as better performers by their bosses. (Forbes, 2021)

When leaders practice empathy in the workplace, they genuinely try to understand others’ emotions and offer support instead of sympathy. These leaders create an open and honest line of communication with their employees, so they feel comfortable expressing feelings at work, even if those feelings are negative. 

Why Empathy Matters

Your employees may regulate or hide their emotions in the workplace, but those feelings still impact their performance. Think about how frustrating it is when you feel overwhelmed at work, and no one offers support or understanding—it negatively affects how you feel about your job. As a result, a little bit of empathy goes a long way in fostering a happy team.

How To Practice Empathy at Work

If you’re not the most empathetic person at work, don’t worry—it’s easy to develop this skill. Here are a few ways to actively practice empathy as a leader.

– Take Time To Connect With Employees

You can’t know what your employees are feeling if you don’t spend time with them. Make time to connect with employees one on one and invite them to share their thoughts with you.

– Actively Listen and Show Compassion

When your days are filled with one meeting after another, it’s not always easy to stop and focus on your employees. However, it’s crucial that you actively listen and address negative emotions when they occur. If you brush someone’s concerns off and rush to a meeting instead of showing compassion, the issue will only get worse.

– Validate Emotions

You may not always understand your employees’ emotions, but you can let them know their feelings are valid. Saying something like, “I understand why you’re feeling that way. How can I help?” is a simple way to acknowledge your employee’s feelings and show that you care.

– Be Open

Until you address an issue with your employee, you don’t know why they’re acting a certain way. Avoid making snap judgments or assumptions about their behavior just because you’ve never experienced what they’re going through. You may view the situation differently than your employee, but you can still attempt to understand their perspective.

– Look For Signs of Stress

No matter how good your employees are at acting, they can’t completely hide stress or burnout. If you notice an employee’s body language, behavior, or performance changing, talk to them about the problem and offer solutions.

Want to learn more about practicing empathy at the workplace? Read our post on Emotional Intelligence and Effective Leadership.

Do you want to know where your interpersonal skills stand and get expert guidance while becoming a more empathetic leader? Envision Global Leadership can help.

We understand the importance of hard skills and relationship-based leadership traits in the workplace, and our research-based leadership assessments look for both.

With our assessment and executive coaching programs, you can realize your exhibited leadership behaviors and take custom courses to develop new ones. Contact the team at EGL today to learn more about our leadership development programs.

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