Empathy has conventionally been a sign of weakness in the traditional workplace.
Conventionally, society has conditioned us to conceal our emotions, to look and appear strong. While it has inspired an entire generation, it has also caught up in terms of high volumes of mental health issues which affect work productivity and quality.
In the traditional workplace one has had to ‘man-up’ and hide emotions especially crying which is seen as a sign of weakness. For the longest time, female professionals were denied promotions because as a gender species, they were far more expressive than their male counterparts who were conditioned to hide their emotions and therefore, bagged the promotions and the positions.
Today the modern workplace is fast evolving into a more inclusive and extremely empathetic environment.
What Is This New Wave Of Empathy That We Are Talking About?
We have always been led to believe that emotions are not good for the professional sphere. We often hear how the professional world openly appreciates humour to boost customer relations and professional growth. These are definitely the positive effects of happy emotions.
Many organisations are fast adapting in terms of human skills to harness the power of listening and the ability to lend comfort to their employees as well as their customers in the best interests of everyone in the business. In the true sense of the term, employees who are emotional are actually the ones who care the most about their job and the business. This is where the organisation can make the most of empathy as a strategy tool.
Encouraging more team-building opportunities that include role-play, lending a patient ear to those employees on the near brink of a burn-out or those in a tough professional/personal phase are critical skills required.
The organization has to build a culture to provide employees the necessary professional/counselling support, leading them to ask the right questions to keep them motivated and focused towards the necessary goals to get out of the rough patch, etc. which goes a long way in retaining the faith of the employees, loyalty and allegiance to the business. The immediate gains are on attrition and attendant recruitment costs.
How To Practice Empathy?
Empathy is very simple to practice – to be able to listen and respond, show interest and tell the other person that we care, we understand and we are here, without making the other person feel small, judged, rejected or cornered in their moments of vulnerability.
Empathy is about putting oneself in someone else’s shoes first. We communicate, as we would with a friend. Empathy facilitates a more tangible understanding of things and situations.
As simple as it sounds, this powerful habit is not very easy to practice; it requires extreme mindfulness and self-awareness of our emotions.
The modern workplace requires empathy if we have to tap into the best of our employees’ capabilities and professional engagement to grow the business. The modern workplace is about relationships, strong teamwork, collaboration with different stakeholders and in the centre of it all is how truly evolved we are as emotional beings. Empathy determines the depth and the quotient of our relationship management at work or with our business stakeholders.
Lack of empathy among peers or from the management side can lead to high levels of distrust and can misfire the channel of communication. Performance and productivity are the first casualties in such scenarios.
A lack of acknowledgment that the organisation doesn’t care and that the management has little stake in one’s state of affairs can push any reasonable employee to abysmal depths of demotivation and poor performance thus causing a ripple effect on the business.
Empathy and mindfulness go hand-in-hand especially at the workplace because we are looking at bettering the lives of the stakeholders of the business and those associated with the business – the customers!
Practicing empathy at the workplace – with the employees or with the business stakeholders is actually a positive business strategy for fostering long-term association and a positive happy environment. The positive effect of empathy is it clearly contributes enormously in nurturing creativity.