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Why develop empathy at your organization?

A recent study1 indicates that the most empathetic companies perform 50% better than their competitors. Empathy is considered an essential skill nowadays because it’s a powerful vector of communication, a means of fostering innovation and a serious asset for managers.

empathy and leadership

You did say empathy, right?

Don’t confuse empathy with sympathy or compassion. In its original Greek, empathy meant “to suffer with”. Today, the word refers to the ability to put oneself in another’s shoes in order to perceive what they are feeling.

Empathy has both an emotional and a cognitive component. The emotional component is an unconscious awareness of the other person’s feelings, while the cognitive component is a conscious skill aimed at understanding the other person.

Empathy and leadership: a manager’s hidden asset

Empathy is a skill that has proven to be an asset for managers. An empathetic management style has the benefits of:

  • creating a climate of listening, caring and respect
  • facilitating communication and collaboration
  • assisting with conflict management and resolution
  • contributing to the development of collective intelligence
  • improving employee engagement and retention

According to a Businessolver study,2 92% of employees would be more likely to stay with their company if managers understood their needs, and 82% would leave their current job for a more empathetic work culture.

An innovation skill : the basis of design thinking

Popularized by design company IDEO, design thinking is an iterative process based on user-centred design. One of its main steps is precisely empathizing. Through various observation, immersion and connection processes, solution designers gather information that enables them to understand and analyse the user’s real needs. Although this step is essential, it’s unfortunately sometimes neglected.

How can you develop your empathy?

Cognitive empathy is a skill that you can learn to develop. Here are a few tips:

  • Take the time to really listen to others (active listening) and understand their needs.
  • Pay attention to their non-verbal communication.
  • Make sure your posture is open and warm.
  • Avoid judging the person you’re talking to – instead, try to understand why they are acting a certain way. Be curious and ask questions.

Is being empathetic always a good thing?

Listening and understanding does not necessarily mean agreeing and approving. It’s best to avoid emotional empathy – some people might be disappointed if they don’t get the response they expect. Furthermore, we tend to unconsciously be more empathetic to those who resemble us, a kind of selective empathy that is risky because it can create inequality. How can you avoid that? Through training. Empathy, like any skill, takes work. The more you’re aware of it and practice it, the better you’ll be at avoiding such pitfalls.

Empathy is a matter of posture, openness and discovery. It’s a real asset that will enable you to create a healthy work environment, better engage your teams and improve performance.

1. https://hbr.org/2016/12/the-most-and-least-empathetic-companies-2016.

2. https://www.businessolver.com/resources/state-of-workplace-empathy

Paula Alvarez

Responsible for marketing and digital projects
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