When your co-worker has a problem, can you go beyond simply saying sorry, to providing that caring hand around the shoulder? Are you able to step into someone else’s shoes and show that you relate to how they are feeling? Empathy can be just as important in the workplace as it is in your personal life. Here’s why empathy at work matters more than you think.
Empathy shows deep respect for your co-worker
There is a key difference between sympathy and empathy. While sympathy shows that you are compassionate, empathy means that you can understand someone else’s experiences. There is no better way to make your co-worker feel valued, to show them your respect, and to gain respect from them in return.
Empathy is key for people skills
Empathy is one of the basic building blocks of good people skills. It involves listening, open-mindedness and compassion, which are all essential for building good relationships with your co-workers. In a workplace where interpersonal skills (or soft skills) are valued more than ever, it’s essential to show a degree of empathy.
Empathy equals problem-solving
By understanding someone else’s problems, you have the potential to work together to solve them. This can be extended from personal issues to include work-related issues. With empathy comes better collaboration – a vital skill in today’s competitive workplace. When it comes to organisational problem-solving, two heads are definitely better than one.
Empathy keeps the peace
If not resolved, workplace conflict can create a nasty atmosphere in the office. By choosing to be open-minded and empathetic, instead of stubborn and detached, you can resolve tense situations quickly. Even if you and your colleague don’t agree on something, at least you’ve shown that you respect and understand their viewpoints.
This quote, which is often attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, perfectly captures the concept of empathy in the workplace:
‘Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care’
Be a more empathetic employee
Being empathetic doesn’t require much effort. Here are three small things you can do every day to improve your empathy in the workplace:
1 – Listen attentively
Sometimes the best way to show your empathy is to simply sit back and listen. Remember that listening isn’t the same as hearing – it involves acknowledging what is being said and looking for the meaning behind it. When you listen actively to your colleagues, you’ll find it easier to build good working relationships.
2 – Be observant
Being empathetic and being observant of other peoples’ feelings are one and the same thing. Pay attention to your co-workers’ general behaviours, expressions and feelings. By making an effort to notice what is going on around you, instead of staying within your private work bubble, you’ll automatically become more empathetic.
3 – Challenge yourself to a conversation with a colleague
To develop empathy, you need to have a conversation that goes beyond the weather. You don’t have to ask someone about highly personal issues, but try to share a few of your own experiences and perspectives and see whether your colleague does the same. Remember to smile and maintain eye contact.