What is empathy?
‘Empathy is the ability to recognise and understand the emotions and feelings of others, and this interpersonal skill can make it easier to develop a cooperative relationship of mutual trust with an employee’ (Mahsud, Yukl and Prussia, 2010, p 562).
What does empathy look like?
Empathetic leaders are relation oriented with their team members and tend to have defined ethical views in which they rely on within their workplace interactions. They focus on recognition and development by showing an interest in the experience of their team members. In addition, they have been shown to delegate authority and responsibility as well as offer psychological support.
Ask yourself these questions:
What are my ethical views and values?
How much do you know about each of your team members’ lives beyond work?
How do I recognise positive efforts of my team members?
What resources do I have in offering psychological support?
Why is empathy important in the workplace?
Empathetic leadership is important and ‘can be a huge indicator of employee well being, positive workplace relationships and organizational commitment’ (Meinecke and Kauffeld, 2018).
To be empathetic involves developing interpersonal skills by practicing techniques within workplace interactions and conversations; through verbal and nonverbal communication skills.
10 tips to improve empathy within your organisation:
1. Practice gratitude
2. Recognise emotion and communicate that emotion
3. Listen carefully to the central message
4. Be aware of your eye contact and body language
5. Be aware of the employee’s body language and nonverbal responses
6. Be genuine and honest within areas of agreement and acknowledge their experience
7. Avoid responding to concerns with ‘at least…’
8. Use inclusive pronouns like ‘we’ and ‘us’
9. Be inquisitive and supportive when an employee has an emotional reaction
10. Speak with the employee’s concern as priority, regardless of your opinion
Mahsud, R., Yukl, G. and Prussia, G. (2010) 'Leader empathy, ethical leadership, and relations-oriented behaviors as antecedents of leader-member exchange quality', Journal of Managerial Psychology, 25(6), pp. 561-577.
Meinecke, A.L. and Kauffeld, S. (2018) 'Engaging the Hearts and Minds of Followers: Leader Empathy and Language Style Matching During Appraisal Interviews', Journal of Business and Psychology, pp. 1-17.
Brené Brown on Empathy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw
Tiffany Delp is training to be a Business Psychologist, currently studying within Kingston University’s Business & Occupational Psychology MSc programme. She has over eight years of talent development and business management experience within two major US markets. Her interests and volunteer work support education, mental well-being and gender equality. You can connect with Tiffany via LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tiffany-delp/.