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Empathy at Work — Organizational Effectiveness

Updated: Jul 14, 2022

Today’s successful organisations’ worldwide, swear by it

“Bob is a great accountant, but his 'people' skills hold him back. I can't see how he'll ever get promoted unless he does something about it." Many of us know people who have reached a certain point in their careers because they have excellent technical skills or functional skills - but they somehow don't get along with team members, because their people skills lag far behind their other job skills. Do you have colleagues like Bob? Or are you, perhaps, like BOB? Employees with poor people skills, often find themselves in the midst of unnecessary conflict. This can be exhausting and stressful for all concerned, and it can destroy even the best laid work plans.

But the fact of the matter, whether we like it or not is, we will have to some time or other, deal with all kinds of people. There is a way we can improve this situation, which is by developing the ability to empathize with others.

What Is Empathy?

Please do not confuse empathy with sympathy. Empathy is not the same as sympathy. Sympathy is the feeling of pity for someone who going through some negative or hurtful situation. Offering sympathy has nothing to do with understanding what that person is going through. It is a purely born out of pity and is purely a surface emotion and reaction.

Empathy, on the other hand goes deep. Recognizing emotions in others, and being able to "put yourself in another person's shoes" - understanding the other person's perspective and reality, that is Empathy. Empathy come out of awareness and sensitivity. Today, organizations have made this a crucial leadership skill that top executives must have. An organization that promotes empathy in the workplace is results driven. Employees prefer to stick around long-term with such companies, as they feel a sense of worth and caring.

Why does it matter for us to understand the needs of team members and others? Why do we need to empathize?

Empathy helps us develop closer relationships. Every organization, teams, groups, have different kinds and types of people working together. Each of them, come from different back grounds, have different sets of issues, likings, methods and behaviors. In order for team members, along with their leaders, to work powerfully together, proper relationships must be built and nurtured.

Developing successful relationships take time, understanding and focus. A lot of this happens through empathy, because empathy helps build trust within the team. When trust is built, good relationships are created.

We cannot escape from the influence of other people on our lives. If you are a part of the top management or a senior executive in your company with a team of people working with you, you will need to develop this skill in order to have the best out of your team and build solid relationships. To be empathic, you have to think beyond yourself and your own concerns. Once you see beyond your own world, you'll realize that there's so much to discover and appreciate! How do we start to emphasize effectively? Use the below four steps:

  1. Put aside your viewpoint, and try to see things from the other person's point of view. When you do this, you'll realize that other people most likely aren't being evil, unkind, stubborn, or unreasonable - they're probably just reacting to the situation with the knowledge and awareness they have.

  2. Examine your attitude Are you more concerned with getting your way, winning, or being right? Or, is your priority to find a solution, build relationships, and accept others? Without an open mind and attitude, you probably won't have enough room for empathy.

  3. Listen Listen to the entire message that the other person is trying to communicate. When a person is going through some conflict, they appreciate someone who would listen to their point of view. Listen with your ears: Try and understand what he or she saying, and the tone being used Listen with your eyes: Notice the body gestures of the person while he or she is speaking. Body language is a very strong indicator of actual feelings Listen with your instincts: Sense if the person is holding something important back. You can understand this by their tone, eye contact and body gestures Listen with your heart: Try and find out what the other person feels at that moment

  4. Communicate: Especially in such situations, be a good listener. That itself is half work done. The person feels comfortable enough to share their concerns openly when you are actively listening. When you have to communicate, or have a discussion with them, do it with sensitivity towards the situation and the person, using the right words, body language and interest.

Practice these skills when you interact with people. You'll likely appear much more caring and approachable - simply because you have increased your interest in what others think, feel, and experience. It's a great gift to be willing and able to see the world from different perspectives - and it's a gift that you can use all of the time, in any situation.

Developing an empathic approach is perhaps the most significant effort you can make toward improving your people skills. When you understand others, they'll probably want to understand you - and this is how you can start to build cooperation, collaboration, and teamwork.

“When you start to develop your powers of empathy and imagination, the whole world opens up to you" — Susan Sarandon


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