Empathic Leadership in the Workplace

“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care”
― Theodore Roosevelt


Empathy is the ability to “put yourself in the other person’s shoes”, understand a situation from another person’s perspective, and react with kindness.

Empathy in the workplace is establishing connections that will enhance working relationships and performance.

It’s important not to confuse empathy with sympathy; the two are pretty different.

Sympathy is defined by feelings of pity. Empathy is defined as seeing yourself in another’s situation and understanding how they are feeling, their thoughts, and opinions. Empathy is both more productive and supportive.

Demonstrating empathy as a leader is paying close attention to verbal and nonverbal signs that are part of our everyday communications.

Empathy is seldom included as a “key skill” for successful leadership. However, imparting an empathic approach to how you lead those in your team offers several advantages:

  • It better enables leaders to understand the cause of poor performance
  • Provides leaders with the opportunity to support their employees to improve
  • Allows leaders to establish and develop strong relationships with the people they lead.

Here are some of our tips on how to demonstrate greater empathy in the workplace.

Know the signs of burnout

Burnout, or presenteeism, is a genuine problem, particularly in the pandemic time and with more of the workforce working from home. People may be feeling more significant stress, not taking regular breaks and working longer hours. Some may be feeling it difficult to separate work from home and establishing the all-important work/ life balance.

Managers and leaders skilled in empathy can recognise the signs of stress in their employees before it becomes an issue and negatively affects performance. Hold regular meetings and one to ones with your team to gauge how they are feeling and managing their current workload. Ensure that they are taking breaks away from their workstation and are using their annual leave allowance.

Recognise their ambitions

Being an empathic leader is to recognise the skills and ambitions of the people you lead. Match their skills to appropriate tasks and provide training opportunities to allow them to develop. Employees who see that their manager is engaged and supportive will undoubtedly go the extra mile.

Recognise their responsibilities outside of work

Empathic leaders understand that their employees are individuals who have responsibilities, and problems, outside of the workplace. Personal issues at home will directly impact how your employees will perform in their job. Keep lines of communication open and transparent so that your employees feel that they can speak openly, sharing their problems, if necessary.

Invite feedback

Create opportunities that allow your employees to provide input. Employees who feel that they can influence positive change will be much more engaged with their role and responsibilities.

Some leaders will be naturally more empathic than others. However, empathy is a skill that can be learnt. With training and support, managers of all levels can improve their ability to support their employees and increase the overall productiveness of their team.

If you need any support, CareerJuice offers career coaching to help you recognise the skills you need to improve to become a more empathic leader. If you would to have an informal chat or learn more, give us a call on 077818 504480.