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How to Cultivate an Empathetic Culture in the Workplace
 

Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Empathy in the context of the workplace simply means that your people are able to establish true, empathetic connections with one another that enhance relationships and performance (Centre for Creative Leadership, 2020).
Cultivating a culture of empathy in the workplace entails certain steps.
It may sound tough initially if the existing office culture has been around for years.
But the good news is, empathy can be learnt and expressed by the very people receiving the empathy.

It would take leaders a conscious effort to exemplify empathy.
You may find yourself juggling with the delicate balance of being task-oriented and person-oriented.
Work tasks and staff welfare are of equal importance as it is your team who gets the tasks done and increases your organisation’s competencies. 

Acknowledgement for Feelings:

A good first step would be to acknowledge the feelings of your employees.
This can be carried out through occasional individual coffee chats with them, or through team bonding activities.
Being approachable allows your staff to arrange for chats with you as a touch point to connect with you about their personal interests and challenges.
As you hear them out, consider using phrases like ‘
I am sorry you are going through this’, or ‘I can imagine how challenging it is for you.
How can the team support you during this time?
’.
Showing empathy means being together with the person’s emotional and thought processes. 

We live in an interconnected world of systems, hence, what affects them in the family system would also affect their performance and mood in the workplace, and should not be neglected.
You may tap into your own experience and knowledge to jointly collaborate to resolve the matter.
Employees often feel cared for when there is someone who offers help.
This would further enhance the working relationship between yourself and your staff.  

Body Language:

During the individual session, the acronym S-O-L-E-R may act as a good reminder to apply for body language.

 

S – Sitting squarely and facing the person. 

O – Open posture. Avoid crossing your arms and legs. 

L – Lean a little forward towards the person. 

E – Eye contact. 

R – Be relaxed. 

These tips would facilitate your chat as it creates an environment of openness and comfort between you and your employees.
People are more willing to share when they feel comfortable.

Strengths-based Approach: 

Everybody has strengths, and highlighting your employees’ strengths will empower your team.
This tiny action would stir them to think positively of themselves and of others, and in turn, impacts the office culture in favourable ways. 

An analogy to illustrate this would be that of a young child who is proud of his accomplishments, and continues with his good behaviour when he gets praised for his efforts.
Everyone from young to old, including leaders, all deserve some form of encouragement daily.
It makes us feel appreciated.

Leadership as Role Models: 

As most workplaces have a hierarchical structure, most employees look to their leaders as role models, and would conform to the culture of the workplace.
Thus, it is notable for leaders to walk the talk, and begin empathising with your employees to spread the movement of empathy in the office.
Overtime, you may observe them supporting one another with empathy.
When your staff feels safe psychologically, there is a higher possibility that turnover rate would reduce, which may reflect that you are doing something commendable as a leader who serves and cares for people. 

References:

Centre for Creative Leadership (2020). The Importance of Empathetic Leadership. https://www.ccl.org/articles/leading-effectively-articles/empathy-in-the-workplace-a-tool-for-effective-leadership/

Counselling Central. The Gerard Egan Model And SOLER. https://www.counsellingcentral.com/the-egan-model-and-soler/

 

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