It’s interesting how sometimes employees and employers love to throw around the word good culture without truly providing substance on what they mean. Then, when you try to dive a little bit more to understand what definition they are placing on the word you both start to realize that in the end they the goal is to achieve a workplace culture of empathy. and although empathy can mean different things to different people, ultimately, people strive to work in a place where management cares.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary empathy is defined as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner”. But not all managers know how to manage an empathetic workplace because some management leaders see empathy as a sign of weakness. This position mainly derives from the fact that they confuse empathy with vulnerability and in business you are ‘not supposed to be vulnerable’, you’re supposed to be strong, tough and have all the answers, and if you don’t your employees will not perform as expected. In reality, it is quite the opposite, employees want to work in a place that actually cares about them and doesn’t treat them as just a tool of the business but more as an asset. This common mistake made by managers should be corrected. Showing empathy actually makes your organization stronger and your employees more engaged.
Empathy does not mean you’re weak, on the contrary it means you care. It doesn’t mean you just feel sorry for a person, empathy means you share in their sadness. You are not only putting yourself in their shoes, you are also trying to feel their emotions and feel compassion for the person and what they are going through. You are not just seeing the uses by stepping in their shoes, you are sharing the experience of pain or sorrow with them, and if needed, taking action to assist. This type of behavior from our leaders goes a long way with employees and most of the time is more valuable than even offering more money.
We should not confuse empathy with sympathy because that can also lead employees to realize you are not sincere. Being sympathetic leans towards a behavior of feeling sorry for someone, which typically is not what people want. People want to feel you care and are sharing in the emotions, not that you are feeling like you are above them and feel sorry for them. Understanding the difference makes an impact on your employee
Not just seeing through stepping in their shoes we share the experience with them