Merriam-Webster Definition of empathy
1 : the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner also : the capacity for this.
EMPATHY & EMPLOYEE HAPPINESS
Across the board, workplace studies show employee happiness directly correlates to increased company productivity and profitability. It’s not surprising that employees often rank perks like more time-off, benefits, flexible work schedules and working in a fun vibrant office as more important than salary. But, arcades and ping-pong tables aside, there’s something every workplace should strive for that makes employees even happier: empathy.
Empathy is cheap, builds camaraderie, boosts a company’s bottom line and is available to everyone from the mailroom clerk to the CEO. According to TINYPulse’s Engagement Report, the number one predictor of liking your job is liking your co-workers. As a business owner, you may think, “I can’t make my employees like each other, so how can I create trust and friendship amongst the troops?” One way is to make sure each person you hire is a good fit for your organization during the hiring process. The other is to lead by example to create an open, empathetic, happy environment. If your personal wellbeing or the wellbeing of the people you see day-in-day-out isn’t enough to fuel an empathy revolution in your office, then you should see empathy’s effect on a company’s bottom line.
BE NICE AND WIN
“The top 10 companies in the Global Empathy Index 2015 increased in value more than twice as much as the bottom 10, and generated 50% more earnings (defined by market capitalization). In our work with clients, we have found a correlation as high as 80% between departments with higher empathy and those with high performers.” -Belinda Parmar, Lady Geek Global Empathy Index.
According to this study, the case for empathy training is in the numbers. Understanding our emotional impact on others correlates to increased growth, productivity, and employee happiness.
The ability to understand other people’s perspective is equally as valuable when applied to employees as to customers. After launching a marketing campaign based on improved customer service, eliminating hidden costs, and reducing carry-on luggage restrictions, European airline Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary said, infamously, “If I’d only known being nice to customers was going to work so well, I’d have started many years ago.”
Employee retention decreases costs, creates a positive work environment, and strengthens an employee’s commitment to a company. In turn, long term employees contribute to the success and growth of an organization.
According to Businessolver’s 2017 Workplace Empathy Monitor Report, empathy has a direct impact on employee productivity, loyalty, engagement and how long an employee stays with a company. The report detailed the following findings:
- 77% of workers would be willing to work more hours for a more empathetic workplace; meanwhile, 60% would actually accept a slashed salary for the same.
- 92% of HR professionals note that a compassionate workplace is a major factor for employee retention.
- 80% of millennials noted that they would leave their current job if their office became less empathetic. 66% of Baby Boomers also shared this sentiment.
HOW TO PRACTICE EMPATHY IN THE WORKPLACE
If you’re ready to change the tone of your office or workplace, try using the following techniques which will create a more empathetic environment no matter what your role.
Empathetic people are able to give their full attention without distraction to other people and spend more time listening than talking. When talking with an empathetic person, you’ll feel that you are heard and recognized. An easy way to show that you’re actually listening is to repeat your sense of what the speaker is saying back to them. Also, try not to formulate your response while someone is talking, use this time to really understand their perspective and then think about what you will say next after they finish speaking.
- Slow Down
Stress, time constraints, and the notorious distractedness that arises from multi-tasking make empathy difficult if not impossible. You have to make time to listen to others at work. Small things that you’d miss if you are in a rush like gestures, facial expressions, and body language can be tell-tale of a person’s emotional state.
Understanding the emotions and feelings for those around you will help you quickly get to the root of issues, and help your colleagues improve and excel. Failure is inevitable, but being empathetic will allow you to understand and use mistakes as fuel for success. Understanding is all about perspective. Try walking in your co-worker’s shoes or remembering the last time you had a bad day at work.
- Be Open
Whether you’re a CEO or an Intern, be someone who is open and willing to take time out of your day to talk. Make yourself available. Be open to questions and concerns, and don’t shy away from tough issues. Make sure your body language jives with your desire to be open (i.e. uncross your arms and make eye contact).
- Ditch the Ultra-Competitive, Cut-Throat Environment
Create a culture of empathy in your workplace. If you’re an employee, getting out of a toxic workplace can change your life. In you’re an employer or manager, work to fix this issue as soon as possible before you wake up one day with no employees at all. Prioritizing the human side of business has the side effect of increasing productivity. But if you try to do it the other way around and put the bottom line before employees, you’ll find both productivity and wellbeing suffers.