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Top five practical tips for improving empathy in the workplace.

Image by DaphneArtsDesign from Pixabay

“Empathy is about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place.” Daniel H. Pink

I recently read the book “Hit Refresh” by Satya Nadella.

What stuck with me is the episode he narrates about a question he

was asked while interviewing with Microsoft.

Here is what the story says,

Satya Nadella was asked this question when he wanted to be part of Microsoft.

“Imagine you see a baby lying in the street, and the baby is crying. What do

you do?” he asked.

“You call 911,” Satya replied without much forethought.

Richard walked Satya out of his office, put his arm around him, and said, “You need some empathy, man. If a baby is lying on a street crying, pick up the baby.”

Why so much talk about empathy?

It is interesting how a large company like Microsoft’s CEO talks about empathy and its importance.

Empathy is considered an essential skill to have in the corporate world. People at all levels in the corporate hierarchy need to have this skill. Human quality and empathy have become crucial with many technological disruptions in the global digital world.

It is a skill that can help build bridges and can make you more effective in all areas of life. An empathetic approach at the workplace can help you achieve more.

Lift someone up, practice empathy

“It’s not so much the journey that’s important, as is the way that we treat those we encounter and those around us along the way.”

― Jeremy Aldana

Deepa was a young lady who had joined us straight from college. She was intelligent. She was once asked to present a business case to her manager and manager’s manager. Deepa was nervous and was trying hard to explain. In her nervousness, she skipped a few slides. Her manager was quick to make fun of her and rebuked her in front of all the people in the meeting room. While some of us in the room empathized with her, the manager did not show any sign of understanding her predicament.

If he had understood his team member and provided her guidance and encouragement, Deepa would have been successful in the first presentation. But her manager’s “EGO” came in the way.

Do you find the above scenario familiar? Do you have a colleague like Deepa’s manager?

As managers and leaders, we are so focused on achieving productivity, efficiency, and growth we tend to forget those softer qualities like empathy, trust, and relationships that are key to achieving success in the workplace.

Fortunately, empathy in the real sense cannot be easily automated.

How well do you know your people?

“Walk with me for a while, my friend — you in my shoes, I in yours — and then let us talk.”

― Richelle E. Goodrich, Smile Anyway

People spend more than 8 hours of the day in the office, sometimes more than the time you spend with your family at home.

With so much time in the office, do you try to have meaningful conversations with your people?

It is all about caring for your people, understanding them, and getting to know them. Only then would you know about their strengths and weakness. Caring will inspire them to put in their best efforts for you. Have a meaningful conversation with them regularly.

Empathy or Sympathy?

“Empathy fuels connection. Sympathy drives disconnection.” — Dr. Brene Brown.

Frankly, people don’t like being sympathized with. All they want is for you to understand them and listen to them. A manager or a leader who is good at empathizing tends to gain the respect of their team.

This skill becomes even more critical when you are working across cultures.

Practical tips for improving your empathy quotient.

  1. While talking to your team and building a relationship with them, ego should not be part of the equation.
  2. Be generous in spending time with your team members and listen to them. Don’t look busy with your mobile or laptop while they are talking to you. Busying yourself will signal that they are less critical.
  3. Be a good coach
  4. Give genuine recognition. It helps to motivate your team.
  5. Approach a problem in the workplace from the team member’s perspective.

“If leaders care about each individual as a person, then people respond well to them. The greater the depth of their concern, the broader and longer lasting their influence.” (from “The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization” by John C. Maxwell)



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