More empathy needed at our workplaces

As it appeared in the Daily Nation on August 27th 2019
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu

The workplace is possibly one of the most complex places on earth. People from differing backgrounds, diverse experiences and varied beliefs come together and work as one. In a business setting, working well together is paramount to business success and it takes both individual and team effort. To work well together, individuals need to understand each other. Businesses also need to understand their customers, partners and suppliers. It is empathy that allows us to sense the feelings of others, understand and appreciate their perspectives and show consideration. Most of us like to refer to this as putting ourselves in another’s shoes.

When we put ourselves in another’s shoes, we know where and when they pinch. Empathy allows us to be more aware and sensitive to the needs and emotions of others. It is considered one of the key components of emotional intelligence and it is thus critical to human relations. At home, at the workplace, and in society, empathy is at the centre of building strong relationships. Leaders who lead from the heart recognize the important role that empathy plays in influencing others, in making change happen and in reaching their desired goals. How much empathy are we showing one another? Have we cultivated adequate empathy at the workplace? Is empathy evident when we are interacting with one another?

At the workplace, empathy helps us understand each other and work well together. Empathy is obvious in how we treat each other and in how we communicate with others. We are considered empathetic when we care about how others feel; we ask the right questions and listen with the intention to understand them. The tone or our voice, the choice of our words and our actions all demonstrates our level of empathy or our lack of it. When we are empathetic, we listen and are not quick to judge. Emphatic leaders appreciate the fears others might be facing, understand their experiences and show a genuine concern. They do so by engaging at a deeper level with others. Unfortunately, many other leaders often seem to overlook the strength of empathy at the workplace. When we fail to employ empathy, we miss the opportunity to build long-lasting relationships with others at our workplaces. Our workplaces would benefit from more empathy.

I believe we all have the ability to develop more empathy. This can only be possible through the intentional effort of each of us. We need to especially grasp the value of empathy at the workplace. Being empathetic makes other people feel valuable; it drives openness at the workplace, reduces stress levels and leads to higher levels of motivation. If you have not been employing empathy at the workplace, start today! Here are a few things we could do differently – find out how others are doing, listen more, pay attention to the non-verbal signs, show genuine concern and pay more attention to the needs of others. We can all be more empathetic in how we relate with each other. Have an empathetic day!

Dr. Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy

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