Why Empathy at work is important

Workplaces that focus on fostering empathetic work cultures are more productive and have higher employee satisfaction and retention rates than those that don’t. Businesses that integrate emotional intelligence in their companies through flexible policies and empathetic management styles outperform their rivals.

Not to mention, diverse and inclusive offices can only truly work if there is empathetic leadership. (And we already know that companies perform better when their talent is diverse.) Empathy allows you to embrace our differences, and empathetic leadership fosters those differences—different ideas, different perspectives, different strengths and weaknesses—to build better teams. To build better companies.

According to HBR’s 2016 Empathy Index, Entrepreneur explains, “The companies the index described as the most empathetic—Facebook,Google, LinkedIn, Netflix and Unilever—are indisputable leaders in their categories, signaling that empathetic individuals not only are more successful but empathetic teams, as a whole, are, too.”


Over 60 percent of CEOs think their businesses are empathetic, but only 24 percent of their employees agree. So, there’s a massive gap in understanding between employer and employee. If you’re trying to prioritize empathy at work, there are simple steps you can take to boost your emotional intelligence and foster a better working environment. Let’s run through a few of these.

Create a Culture of Teamwork

Empathy at work means understanding that not one person can do their job, without the help of other supporting roles at work. You can come up with a product, sure, but without a marketing team to sell it, or engineering and design teams to create it, you’re not going to get anywhere.

We all depend on each other. We all learn and grow from our experiences, brainstorms, and meetings with our coworkers. Teamwork is the foundation of every great company. And empathetic teamwork—being able to step back and adopt or appreciate someone else’s perspective is a game changer.

Accept People as They Are

There’s a difference between having high expectations for your team members, and making them feel like they aren’t good enough. Empathy means accepting other people as they are. We all have strengths andweaknesses—but dwelling on a person’s shortcomings isn’t productive.

When your coworkers feel accepted and like they belong, itwill help build a sense of trust on your team. If each person feels like theycan be themselves at work—their true self, your team will be better off. Whenthere’s trust in your team, feedback and creativity flow freely—essentialqualities of a productive, efficient, high-quality performance team.

Be Transparent and Authentic

A big part of transparency is honesty—honesty about yoursuccesses, but also about your failures. Your shortcomings. Your mistakes. Weall know that social media is snubbed for portraying a false sense of reality,a “highlight reel” of our lives. But in our actual lives, in our careers, weoften default to that same “highlight reel” mentality.

Authenticity is empathetic—because when you’re authentic, youcan help others see that they’re doing okay. Your own vulnerabilities andlessons learned translate to your peers, to your team members, to your employees.By being transparent in your failures and your successes, you’re lifting othersup to know that they’re allowed to make mistakes, too.

And, when they do make mistakes, they’ll be more likely tocome to you for advice or help—because they know you’re understanding andempathetic to their missteps.

Ask Questions

Asking questions is key because it shows you’re interestedin other people’s perspectives. Whether it’s your coworker, your manager, oryour employee, take time to ask how they’re doing, how they’re feeling abouttheir workload, or what they think about an upcoming project or presentation.

Take the time to pay attention to, and care a little (at minimum)about your coworkers.

Prioritize Listening

Asking questions isn’t very effective if you’re not going tolisten to the answers. And we could all be better listeners—all of us. Activelistening is an insanely important skill, especially for leaders. Don’t askquestions to give yourself an opportunity to share your own perspective. Askquestions to listen and really hear the other person.

It means breaking the bad habit we get into where we finishthe other person’s sentence before they do. Don’t assume that you know theanswer to their question. Take the time to listen to it, instead.

Prioritizing empathy at work changes how you work. And ifyou’re lucky, it can change how others work, too.