Why is Empathy so Important in The Workplace?

Published on 12/02/2020


There are many skills that are required in order to be successful at work, and it doesn’t always come down to industry-specific knowledge and qualifications. Sometimes, a little humility and understanding the feelings of others can go a long, long way.

We hear a lot about how communication skills are vital in the workplace, but few people actually understand that communication is not just about words, but also about how you listen, how you come over to other people and the way your body is speaking for you. 

There is one personality skill takes regular communication to the next level and it’s something which will ensure you’re far more effective from your office desk overall. 

We are talking about empathy. 

What is Empathy?

Empathy is the ability to understand someone’s feelings and put yourself in their shoes. It isn’t about taking on those feelings as your own, as that is what an empath does; instead, it is about being able to understand what someone is feeling by watching for nonverbal cues and therefore appreciating how they must be feeling. 

When you’re able to walk in another person’s shoes, by understanding their feelings and experiences, you’re able to understand them on a deeper level. This can be extremely useful when dealing with customer complaints and problems, but also when interacting with your colleagues on a daily basis around your designer office chairs. 

Some people naturally have more empathy than others, but it is a skill which you can develop also. You simply need to be more mindful of being in the moment and not falling foul of distractions, and you need to pay attention to the nonverbal signs that someone is giving you. 

Check out this infographic which highlights some useful ways to improve empathy in the workplace. 

Source - https://gethppy.com/hr-infographics/20-ways-to-improve-empathy-at-work

Why is Empathy Useful at Work?

When you’re able to appreciate what someone is going through and how they must be feeling, not only can you understand them better, but you can also help them more effectively too. 

For example, perhaps a customer is complaining about an experience they have been through and it has left them feeling worried about using your services again. Rather than simply apologising for their experiences, empathy will allow you to really understand the experience and how it made them felt. As a result, you can create a better outcome for that client, retain their custom, and you can make changes which ensure it never happens again to them, or to another customer. 

Empathy can also help you to form stronger bonds with your colleagues too. Perhaps you’re collaborating around the modern boardroom tables and one particular colleague seems a little quiet and not as vocal as they normally are. You could simply shrug this off as them having a bad day and carry on, or you could wait until you’re alone and quickly ask them if they’re okay. By watching for nonverbal communication signs and using your empathy, you’ll be able to tell if they really are fine, or whether they need some help. 

For instance, perhaps they’re feeling stressed and they don’t want to admit it. Using your empathy will allow you to help them out, without making them feel like they can’t cope. This will ensure greater productivity for the team and it will boost working relationships too. 

Whilst empathy allows us to appreciate the feelings of others, it’s also important to be able to read into nonverbal communication too. In this case, look for things like negative body language, speed of voice, tone of voice, a lack of eye contact, and fidgeting. All of this will help you to see the real picture and therefore allow you to have a deeper understanding of your colleague too. 

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