Empathy and Humility: The Culture Catalysts

Simran Talreja
4 min readJun 29, 2022

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Working in recruitment empowers one to be on the forefront of the candidate experience and develop insights into what prospective colleagues look for when they are sifting through employment opportunities — in my experience, the most fundamental ask is the culture of an organisation and the focus it places on a healthy working environment. A recent study by LinkedIn Global Talent Trends emphasises upon the fact that candidates are 67% more engaged with job openings that include company culture as part of their description.

To most people, work culture is a blanket term that covers all aspects other than compensation and benefits. But what makes one company’s culture distinct from another?

Substantial research proves that when colleagues feel protected, appreciated and understood by their organisation, they are more likely to display ownership and grit towards their work. The impact of this is reflected through higher levels of productivity and engagement. Quite simply put, culture is an intangible word with considerably tangible benefits — benefits that facilitate colleagues to be the best version of themselves.

With positive work culture being so instrumental for a company’s success, what does it really come down to? For the colleagues at Bazaar, it encompasses two core attributes: empathy and humility.

Humans First

Empathy at work plays a significant role in helping one view colleagues as individuals with stories, rather than homogenous resources; this helps to build an environment where people feel heard and valued. The way to effectively instil humanistic traits at work is through a top-down approach: from leaders’ behaviours imprinting on to the fresh hires.

Leader’s Responsibility

Colleagues’ tendency to nurture a sense of empathy within their behaviour is inspired and shaped by the organisations’ leadership. The more leaders share their experiences, failures and learnings, the more it allows their team to relate to them and build a connection with their story that extends beyond daily tasks. Additionally, actively listening to teams, barring any judgement, encourages honesty within the team and increases their sense of belonging towards the company.

Why Now?

Over the past two years, Pakistan has undergone several changes; today, the country finds itself amidst an economic downturn exacerbated by political instability, while still grappling with the consequences of a global pandemic. The work landscape has been constantly switching between remote-working and working at the office, thus making it challenging to focus on mere tasks while feeling the same level of belonging to the organisation. The deteriorating economic climate only makes the situation worse by instilling a deep sense of fear for the future, with the anxiety naturally affecting the way people feel about their jobs. These changes create a gap in connection, communication and engagement, and the onus then falls on the people team and the leadership to reshape work culture and realign the focus back to empathy and understanding people.

Empathising with colleagues and addressing their fears with patience helps organisations grasp the needs of the hour better. Policies cultivating empathy such as flexible work hours, the option to work from home and having an open door policy have proven to result in stronger collaboration and reduced stress amongst colleagues.

Make Room for Conversations

In practice, empathy is not a hard skill people need to extensively train for, but is rather an advancement to listening to other people and trying to connect with them. The easiest way to encourage empathy is through open conversations, which creates a space where people can navigate through their concerns and find a community that cares for them beyond their work hours, helping them to be viewed as multidimensional.

What it Means to be Humble

Choosing to be empathetic and patient through tough times can transform a company’s work culture, but it’s just as important to stay humble during a winning season. Companies should aspire to build a work space that is beyond hierarchies and traditional organisational structures — one that replaces authority with autonomy and focuses on teamwork. When leaders practice humility and give everyone the same level of opportunity, it empowers colleagues to speak their minds, take up high-impact projects and learn faster, consequently yielding better results.

Embracing Humility

When a person is humble, they see themselves as a work-in-progress, reminded to always learn from their surroundings and hone their skills to the best of their abilities. The drive to constantly learn and improve, boosts career longevity by delaying the point of stagnation on their learning curve.

Humility opens the door to two-way feedback through which both the mentor and the mentee can learn from one another, despite the differences in their age, position and background, leading to greater accountability. As a result, the level of collaboration and cooperation increases in the teams hereby creating a strong, inclusive company.

Empathy and Humility Run In Parallel

Being empathetic requires us to understand one another, and that means accepting that some moments require learning and oftentimes unlearning — that is where humility comes in. Humility means being okay with not knowing, and instead putting in the hard work to ask questions, being curious and ultimately, displaying empathy.

So how do we ensure that a company’s work culture has these key attributes? They can not be packed in a lunch box and brought to work every morning, but they can definitely be cultivated by leaders through their language, tone and positive affirmations to others.

The core values embodied at Bazaar have empathy and humility tied into their very essence. By remaining grounded, creating space for differing opinions and valuing each individual’s unique persona, we strive to build a community our colleagues can be proud of.

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