Empathy in the workplace

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed about the latest HR trends.

Empathy in the workplace

What does empathy in the workplace mean?



What does empathy in the workplace mean?


Empathy is the ability to put yourself into someone else’s position and understand how they might be feeling and what they might be experiencing.

Practice empathy can be considered a super-power that helps you understand others when working in teams or with other people. Whether you are dealing with direct reports, customers, or suppliers, cultivating empathy can help you :


  • Improve communication
  • Strengthen relationships
  • Improve customer service
  • Drive sales
  • Boost collaboration.


Why is empathy important in the workplace?


Empathy is one of the most important skills in today’s workplace. As roles become more technology and service-focused, the way we deal with others has become increasingly relevant.

And empathy is a key part of that. As a key element in emotional intelligence, knowing how to be empathetic can improve communication, minimize conflict and create stronger relationships.


What are the stages for developing empathy in the workplace?


Empathy skills in the workplace can be developed in five stages, with three main categories: cognitive empathy, emotional empathy, and compassionate empathy.


  • Awareness:


The first stage is awareness. This is when you start becoming aware of others’ emotions and experiences. You might begin to notice when someone is feeling down or see when there is tension in group interaction.


  • Curiosity:


The second stage is curiosity. This is when you become curious about others’ emotions and experiences. You might find yourself asking questions about how someone is feeling or what they are thinking.


  • Empathy:


The third stage is empathy. This is when you start feeling along with others. You might find yourself sharing in one of the team member emotion or experiencing them yourself.


  • Compassion:


The fourth stage is compassion. This is when you start to feel concerned for others and their well-being. You might want to help others in their time of need or be more understanding when they make mistakes.


  • Action:


The fifth stage is action. This is when you start to take action to help others. You might find yourself volunteering for a cause or speaking up for someone who is being treated unfairly.


What are some exercises for empathy in the workplace?


Here are three exercises that can be done for a more empathetic workplace:


1. Perspective-taking:


This exercise involves taking on the perspective of another person. To do this, you will need to imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to see things from their point of view.


2. Emotional insight:


This exercise involves trying to understand what another person is feeling. To do this, you will need to pay attention to the other person’s facial expressions and body language.


3. Empathy statements:


This exercise involves making statements that show empathy for another person. To do this, you will need to use phrases such as “I can see how that would be difficult for you” or “That sounds really frustrating.”


How can empathy in the workplace help HR leaders ?


Empathy can help HR leaders because of the way it helps people understand what others are going through. Empathy is a way of stepping into someone else’s shoes and trying to see the world from their perspective.

This can be helpful when dealing with difficult conversations, such as performance reviews or disciplinary meetings. Empathy can also help develop empathetic leadership by building trust and rapport with employees.

By practicing empathy to employee analytics and seeking to truly understand what is driving behaviors, HR leaders can then put policies and programs in place that will make a real impact on company culture and job performance.


How can you improve levels of empathy in the workplace?


Improving levels of empathy in the workplace is not a simple one-hit task. Depending on the type of organization you run, the levels of empathy that are already present may be different.

Empathy is typically stronger in compassionate and creative industries such as marketing, healthcare, and education. In contrast, engineering, for example, is a profession with typically lower levels of affective empathy.

With this in mind, you can start to tailor empathy training in your workplace. This should include:


1. Encouraging senior leadership to practice and demonstrate empathy :


Empathy is a vital leadership competency. One way for leaders to do this is for them to use open-ended questions to understand other people’s perspectives and to practice listening.


2. Creating a culture of teamwork :


By creating teams of people who depend on one another for success, empathy becomes crucial to their success.


3. Nurturing inclusion :


As well as being important for company culture, developing an inclusive organization will improve individual levels of empathy. At its simplest, if you are working in an organization that is set up to respect difference and help others belong, then you will develop a sense of empathy to facilitate that.


4. Be fair :


Empathy needs to be balanced with fairness. Just because someone was tired out and made a mistake does not mean they should not have to pick up the pieces. Often, if a manager believes an employee is tired, they may judge lapses less harshly.

But if employees do not see the consequences of this lapse, they may be likely to repeat it. Moreover, other employees may spot this lapse and feel as if this is unfair or use the same excuse. Too much empathy can set a poor precedent.


5. Coach and encourage empathy :


By providing employees with training and coaching to encourage empathy, you will develop an overall stronger organization with better teamwork. Empathy training can help people to understand their own emotions and the emotions of others.

It can also give employees the tools they need to identify when someone may be acting out of character and how best to approach them. Empathy coaching can also help managers to understand what Stop And Empathize (SAE) is and how they can use it.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed about the latest HR trends.