- 90% of workers believe empathetic leadership creates loyalty, and 85% say that it increases productivity.
- Empathetic leadership is essential in today’s COVID-affected workplace as employees struggle with burnout.
- Kathleen Quinn Votaw, the author of DARE to CARE IN THE WORKPLACE: A Guide to the New Way We Work shares some tips on how leaders can lead with empathy and enhance the employee experience.
As many workplaces struggle to retain and hire employees during the Great Resignation, it may be time for leaders to feel empathy toward their workers.
It’s critical for companies to hire and develop more effective managers and leaders capable of moving their organization forward, which requires looking beyond traditional strategies for management development and cultivating the skills most important for success.
One of those skills is empathy — a vital leadership competency.
Ernst & Young’s 2021 Empathy in Business Survey showed around 50% of employees quit a previous job because their boss wasn’t empathetic to their struggles at work or in their personal lives. The survey showed that nearly 90% of workers believe empathetic leadership creates loyalty, and 85% say that it increases productivity.
Empathetic leadership is essential in today’s COVID-affected workplace as employees struggle with burnout, working from home, and other issues, according to research by Catalyst.
Until more business owners, executives and managers put a priority on listening to their employees and showing them that they care, workers will look for companies that are more tuned in to their concerns, according to Kathleen Quinn Votaw, the author of DARE to CARE IN THE WORKPLACE: A Guide to the New Way We Work.
“Most people do not know how to truly understand someone else’s point of view without letting their own thoughts, opinions, and emotions get in the way,” Quinn Votaw said, “Leaders often sit in their own place of judgment rather than using empathy as the bridge to understanding and connection.”
She says that while empathy has gained importance in the work culture in recent years, many managers aren’t prepared for that role.
“Leading with empathy means understanding and accepting that people are not always operating at their very best. Issues from home affect work lives. Working within and around that reality is the best way to create a place where people want to come to work,” she said.
Quinn Votaw offers these tips on how leaders can lead with empathy and enhance the employee experience:
- Be authentic. “Like actors in a Shakespearian play, we play roles versus showing up authentically. We have been taught to hide our true selves and display a false sense of bravado. To lead with empathy, get beyond the facade we all walk around with. Go the extra step – with your willingness to dig deep in terms of caring and asking questions that convey your interest in them as people,” according to Quinn Votaw.
- Communicate with a personal touch. A leader who consistently communicates with a personal touch for a variety of reasons – praise for the employee, concern and support for them – builds morale and increases retention. The more personal they are, the more appreciated they are by the employees.
- Make space for connection. Leaders need to respect how their employees need personal connections with each other, and leaders should personally connect with employees once or twice a week outside of regular meetings. “Make time for more social and genuine connections in virtual meetings,” she says. “Have fun with virtual coffee chats, happy hours, trivia contests, or scavenger hunts.”
- Provide remote workers with the tech support they need. “There’s a growing economic inequality crisis with remote workers not having money for or access to technology,” Quinn Votaw says. “No one wants to lose out on high-quality talent because they lack funds for high-speed internet or a computer. Create a program to provide office equipment for your employees so they can have a functional setup in their personal space.”
- Respect the boundaries of work and home life. Working in a remote environment has thrown off a lot of employees. “It was easy to have barriers and work/life balance when we commuted. Leaders can help employees create a home space where they can turn work on and off, which boosts productivity, enhances connection, and creates a healthier work/life balance,” according to Quinn Votaw.
“Empathy is not about you, the leader. It’s about taking time to listen, putting yourself in someone else’s place, and providing what they need in that moment,” Quinn Votaw said.
Employees can also utilize empathy.
In recent years, empathy has been regularly listed as a “soft skill” being sought by employers, and for good reason.
When staff members treat each other with understanding and respect, it not only comes with boosts to morale but also to efficiency and productivity, as the team is more likely to provide each other with proactive support. Employees who are able to tap into empathy can provide more responsive customer service, according to Forbes.
Empathy in the workplace has to start at the top. If employees don’t believe their leaders have empathy for them, they’re unlikely to show empathy themselves. Leaders need to find ways to show their team members that they care about their concerns, as well as their well-being.