Written by: Amber Trail, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
What comes to mind when you think of empathy? Someone who is selfless and understands the feelings of others, right? Now you’re probably thinking, “What does empathy have to do with the workplace?” Don’t worry – I’ll get to that. But first, I want to dive a bit more into empathy and what it truly means.
Empathy is essentially putting yourself in the position of another to understand what they need in that moment and how you can provide that for them. We all need to embrace empathy. What if, instead of feeling bad for someone else – we transform ourselves into understanding what that individual needs to help make them feel less alone in their current situation? That’s the million-dollar question of the day, and technically every day.
Your friends or family may provide empathetic feelings, but do you feel empathy in the workplace? Is it a necessary emotion to even have or bring into the workplace? If you see a co-worker or employee clearly upset, should you or should you not express empathy towards them? The short answer is, everyone is human, and empathy is typically accepted in the workplace. But is it cultivated/executed correctly? Find out!
Some companies bring experts in for formal trainings on this subject. But what if training isn't possible? It's safe to say that it's okay for co-workers and employees to express empathy to one another, but they must keep personal space and social queues in mind when doing so. This is 'professional empathy.'
Be supportive without being pushy. Be wary, though, that once an empathetic work culture has been cultivated, it does not get abused or overused or even underused. Hence, why keeping a professional empathy workplace is important.
Open your door, open your heart, open your ears. But remember that professionally, there always needs to be boundaries. Never pry someone unless they are very willing to discuss their feelings. Never make them feel uncomfortable or that their feelings are not important. Just ask, listen, and notice body language or other social queues.
Emotional intelligence also plays an important factor in the workplace alongside of empathy. Have you ever encountered an easily-irritated manager that gets disgruntled over every bump in the road? Does this encounter make you feel anxious or as if you are a burden to the company? That right, there is what we call emotional contagion.
Emotions can easily be transferred among individuals, and if not controlled, this can create a bad workplace culture. As a leader, you should be able to properly manage your emotions and collaborate with your employees in a professional manner.
The most important thing to remember here is how our emotions can affect other people. Emotions spread like wildfire. Once we have an angry boss, everyone follows. We can begin to control this phenomenon once we recognize and understand the emotions in ourselves and one another.
Psychologists coined the term “labeling” for properly defining our emotions. One should consider the intensity of the emotion and reflect on this feeling. As we become aware of this, we can get to know these negative emotions and their roots and how to manage them at any given time. This can allow leaders to make better decisions and solve problems.
Another important factor is having empathy in the workplace. It is crucial to put yourself in someone else's shoes and try to understand how they are feeling. Once you can process their thoughts, you should show compassion and understanding. You will gain the respect of your subordinates and your bosses with this empathetic understanding of all.
Emotional intelligence is one of the most important skills that leaders can possess in the workplace. It is not easy to do, but once we take the extra effort to understand these feelings and react professionally, success in both you and the business will follow.
At the end of the day, empathy in the workplace creates an environment that is more welcoming and positive and leads to the possibilities of creating a more efficient and productive workplace. And who doesn’t want a work environment that’s more open and warm? My thoughts exactly!
Amber Trail. Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Amber Trail, MBA, SHRM-CP is the founder and consultant for her human resources consulting company, The HR Trail, LLC. With over a decade of HR experience and a master’s degree in Business Administration, Amber brings her passion and knowledge of human resources to small businesses nationwide. She realized that not all businesses need nor can they afford a full-time HR professional, and that's why she decided to create The HR Trail. To provide various human resource consulting services such as recruitment, coaching, company handbook development, event planning, and more. Her motto is creativity + passion = purpose, and she thrives on successfully helping small businesses accomplish their human resources needs!