Cofounder and Chief Operations Officer at SetSchedule. Resident tech guru.
When an employee is going through personal difficulties like health problems, family issues or emotional stress, leaders must be able to practice empathy by providing support, understanding and flexibility.
Empathy is a necessary characteristic of any successful organization. I have seen firsthand, for example, how empathy has allowed my company to nurture talents to achieve their potential. In fact, empathetic leadership can foster closer relationships with their people that result in higher levels of engagement and productivity.
That said, many leaders may struggle to lead with empathy. This style of leadership can often feel like it conflicts with the requirements for efficiency and impartiality.
How does empathy develop, and where does it come from?
Empathy is a complex emotion that develops in humans over time. It begins in our early childhood as babies, when we begin to recognize and respond to the emotions of those around us.
However, research suggests that empathy is not only a learned behavior but is also influenced by genetics. Some studies have shown that certain genetic factors can affect our capacity for empathy, while others have suggested that the environment in which we grow up plays a significant role in shaping our empathy levels.
Empathy can be difficult to practice in the workplace for a variety of reasons. One of the primary reasons is that many workplaces place an emphasis on efficiency and productivity over emotional connection and understanding. This results in a culture that suppresses emotions and leaves little room for vulnerability or empathy.
This is especially true in fast-paced and high-pressure work environments, where time is limited and quick decisions or actions are required. When too much empathy is practiced, it can lead to exhaustion and impaired decision-making.
On the other hand, some people may suffer merely because they lack the emotional intelligence necessary to notice and comprehend the sentiments of others. This can be dangerous to team members working under them.
Balancing Empathy And Productivity
Finding the perfect mix between empathy and productivity can prompt leaders to choose deadlines over stress. While empathy is necessary for building a positive and supportive workplace atmosphere, productivity is required to keep things moving smoothly.
So, how can you know when to intervene and develop or demonstrate empathy while keeping the productive spirit alive? Here are some tips:
Pay attention to employee emotions.
It is critical for you to be aware of your team’s emotional state as a leader or coworker. If you sense someone struggling, reach out and offer assistance. Examine behavioral changes, increased absenteeism, decreased productivity, physical problems and emotional outbursts. However, not everyone displays these symptoms.
Make a welcoming environment that values mental health and well-being. When you take the time to actually listen and demonstrate that you care, you’re laying the groundwork for a more secure environment. This safe area can help you create trust and rapport with your team members, leading to improved cooperation and production.
Creating a friendly environment is as simple as setting a good example. You can accomplish this by displaying a little vulnerability to your team members. I don’t mean that you should seek empathy, but rather that you should create an environment in which everyone on the team feels safe around you. And the greatest way to do it is to connect with your team members on a personal level.
There is no specific way to do this because each person has different approaches to leadership. The only thing specific would be how you reveal a portion of your humanity through vulnerability.
Set realistic goals and expectations.
One of the key reasons why productivity and empathy can feel like conflicting forces at times is that leaders frequently establish unreasonable expectations and targets.
Set realistic goals and communicate effectively with your staff about what is expected of them to create a balance between the two. This can reduce burnout and dissatisfaction while also making it simpler to build a supportive and empathetic workplace atmosphere.
Encourage communication and collaboration.
Open communication and collaboration are critical for developing an empathetic workplace culture while remaining productive.
Encourage your team members to speak out and openly discuss their thoughts and concerns. Create an environment in which everyone feels free to express themselves and where everyone’s contributions are valued.
Words play a huge role in displaying sincerity. Through the right words, you can communicate sincerity along with your intent to listen. Use words that are casual and acknowledge that something should be fixed and that you need their help doing that.
Practice active listening.
Active listening is an essential component of empathy since it entails actually hearing and comprehending what someone is saying.
When someone comes to you with a problem, listen carefully and ask questions to get a better picture of the situation. This might help you respond in a compassionate and supportive manner while remaining focused on productivity.
While leading with empathy in the workplace is not always simple, it is critical for developing strong, productive teams. Empathy enables us to understand and connect with our coworkers on a deeper level, resulting in a supportive and enjoyable work environment.
Leaders may find a balance between empathy and productivity by recognizing indicators of workplace stress, setting realistic goals, fostering communication and collaboration and practicing active listening.
As we manage the obstacles of the modern workplace, let us remember that empathy is more than simply a “soft skill.” It is an essential component of success and growth.
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