The concept of empathy within the traditional workplace might run counter to a competitive, aggressive business environment. Employees stress and burnout have become increasingly prevalent and raising concerns over the last decade.
More entrepreneurs are now calling for change and the corporate culture is beginning to acknowledge the need to connect and relate to others. This, in my opinion, makes the difference between a sustainable successful business harnessing and fostering creativity and dynamism within its working force and other businesses that sum up their activities to profits and losses. It’s a balance sheet versus person contest.
“On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world,” he said. “Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy . . . Your main constituencies are your employees, your customers and your products.” Jack Welsh
Times might be changing and we may notice a shift within the business jargon of “True leadership”, how organisations now aim to show how they deeply care for people. A new wave towards a more “Humanistic management” will hopefully generate a new generation of empathic managers and leaders.
Not only the corporate world is jumping on the empathy wagon. In politics Barack Obama too expresses the need for compassion during times of economic crisis
“There’s a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit,… but I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit – the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes; to see the world through those who are different from us – the child who’s hungry, the laid-off steelworker, the immigrant woman cleaning your dorm room.”
So here are 5 ways to cultivate empathy:
- Engage with your colleague. Discover what motivates them and what holds them back. Challenge yourself and step out from your frame of reference. There is growth when different perspectives are shared in an open-minded and non-judgemental way.
- Listen actively. Fully concentrate on what is being said, how it is said, how it impacts you. It involves listening with all your senses rather than just ‘hearing’ the content of the message. Acknowledge their position as a valuable feedback and remain engaged in developing a solution.
- Communicate in a congruent manner. Shift your focus from winning the point of an argument towards resolving differences. Notice how aligned you are with the other, body talk, tone of voice and mostly their way of communicating.
- Don’t fix. Support and help to develop a person’s resources and skills from where they are. Encourage sharing ideas free from the fear of ridicule. You never know a person until you understand their position.
- Care and remain grateful. We need each other to grow stronger and healthier. Empathy is a pathway to success.