The importance of empathy in the workplace

When it comes to empathy, many of us tend to view this as a soft skill. However, it can be an incredibly important talent to possess in the workplace.

Managers are likely to gain much clarity from observing their team’s emotions whilst at work. Introducing empathy can assist with resolving problems, as well as strengthen relations with colleagues and clients. Most of us are only taught practical and technical skills, however it seems that when it comes to interpersonal skills, we may have missed a trick.

In this special guest blog, Kayleigh Frost explores how empathy is defined in the workplace, and why it’s such an important personality trait to have for your staff and your business.

What is empathy?

Simply put, empathy is the ability to read emotions in people within their frame of reference. It is about being able to see situations from a different perspective.

In the psychology field, empathy is seen as a vital occupational quality. It’s known as one offive key factors for emotional intelligence.

Read on as we delve deeper into the 3 divisions of empathy:

1. Cognitive empathy

Cognitive empathyis the ability to understand someone’s feelings or thoughts, without even needing an emotional connection with them. In the workplace, managers and employees highly benefit from this form of empathy, particularly when dealing with customers and in team building situations. It’s highly useful for direct customer interaction, where rapport is vital for engagement and service.

However, cognitive empathy can be seen as rational and emotionally neutral. Meaning, people may utilise it to manipulate people or outcomes.

2. Emotional empathy

Emotional empathy is aboutsyncing with someone’s feelings in depth. It’s also known as ‘affective empathy. As a person is affected or changed by a situation, they begin to understand it on a deeper, more genuine level after a period of time. It’s important to be careful when putting emotional empathy into action. You may become overwhelmed which in turn can have an effect on your own mental wellbeing, so be sure to set boundaries and breaks as you apply this form of empathy. Combine the open approach with an appropriate method for resolution.

3. Compassionate empathy

This form of empathy is seen as the most proactive out of all three categories.Compassionate empathyrequires you to show concern, however at the same time, allowing oneself to be pragmatic in dealing with the issue. You can begin by acknowledging the individual’s current state of mind and allowing them to be present and accepting in their current emotions.

Is empathy the same as sympathy?

Empathy is commonly muddled with sympathy, but they certainly do differ.

同情是一种感觉或问题你可能有佛r someone and what they may be dealing with, without feeling the emotion of what they're going through. In other words, you may feel sorry for the person, howeveryou don't truly understand how they feel.

When you empathise, you connect with the person’s feelings, regardless of whether you understand or relate to what the individual is going through. You make a conscious choice to go deeper into trying to understand their perspective.As Brené Brown highlights, “Empathy fuels connection. Sympathy drives disconnection.”

How to champion empathy in the workplace

There are simple steps you can take to blossom emotional intelligence, and help to establish a mentally healthier workplace. Take the first initial move, and watch empathy become a shared value between your staff.

If you want to champion empathy in your workplace, here are some easy steps you can follow:

1. Grow teamwork ethics

As a business, a significant step to take is working on growing teamwork ethics. A workforce with solidarity and cohesion will help with understanding one another far better.

Whether it’s one task or an ongoing project, employees need one another to progress. Empathy allows an understanding of the importance of unity. Each cog in the wheel of business is just as valuable and significant as the other. Through collaboration and harmony, your company will likely flourish extensively.

2. Show others gratitude

Showing gratitude is so important in the workplace. Employees need to be aware of their worth and value within the business, and that counts for everyone.

Gratitude can easily propagate empathy, through your views and practices. Whether it’s a simple gesture such as making a cup of coffee for someone, or rewarding those who have gone the extra mile,there are lots of ways to show others how grateful you arefor their hard-work, loyalty, and perseverance.

3. Learn to listen

One of the most important work-skills to hone in on is the art of listening. There’s a reason why we have one mouth, and two ears!

我们都可以成为工作更好的听众;和this is even more prevalent in the workplace. One great way to listen to everyone within the workplace is to introduce suggestion boxes and feedback forms. This will allow those who are less likely to speak up to have the opportunity to have their voices heard.

The best form of empathy comes from prioritising others

We can’t help it - at times, without even realising it, we inherently think of ourselves first. Whilst in some circumstances we may indeed need to put ourselves first, for example when it comes to health, safety, and wellbeing reasons that we cannot ignore. However, it is important to note that prioritising others doesn’t mean we devalue ourselves.

Prioritising the practice of empathy, emotional intelligence and nurturing mental health is key. You can do your part by aiming to recognise these situations at work and work with individuals to help eliminate these issues before they occur.



Kayleigh Frost is the head of Clinical Services at health and wellbeing support platformHealth Assured.

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