I recently came across a survey with a focus on how employees were feeling about their present positions. One of the findings jumped out at me. 83% of those surveyed would consider leaving their current organization for a similar role at a more empathetic organization. Empathy is not just a nice leadership quality to have, its actually critical for organizational success.
Empathy is a critical skill of emotional intelligence and is the quality of recognizing and understanding another person’s desires, beliefs, needs and emotions. For example, leaders with empathy are able to understand their employees’ needs and provide them with constructive feedback. Successful salespeople use their empathic ability to gauge a customer’s mood, which helps them decide when to pitch a product and when to keep quiet. In addition, studies have found that people high in empathy are more confident, sensitive and assertive, and they enjoy better physical and mental health.
How would you assess your level of empathy at work?
You will find 12 questions below which look at typical workplace situations. Answer true or false to each.
1. If I don’t know enough to understand, and empathize with another’s dilemma, I try to increase my knowledge by asking questions. T / F
2. I recognize and remember that others are different from me and might see and feel things differently from how I might experience the same situation. I try to look at the situation through that person’s eyes, not my own. T / F
3. If a co-worker complains about his boss, I’m likely to advise that person to find another job, change departments or speak up. I like to be helpful by offering solutions. T / F
4. I’m always ready to offer a psychological analysis of my colleagues’ troubles. T / F
5. I don’t need to be right about what I imagine the other person to be feeling. If I’ve misunderstood, I ask the person to help me correct my impressions. Doing so helps me learn more about the other. T / F
6. When I show that I understand the other person’s experience, I notice that the person I’m talking with opens up more. T / F
7. If a co-worker expresses anxiety about her relationship with her officemate, I’m quick to reassure her that it’s nothing and that she shouldn’t worry about it. T / F
8. It seems that I always know better than others what’s behind or underneath their problems at work. T / F
9. Being a good, active listener helps me “get” what someone else is going through. T / F
10. I try to focus on the other person’s feelings, rather than actions or circumstances. I know that when people are upset, it’s better to work through and handle their feelings before figuring out how to solve their problems. T / F
11. I’m quick to remind people that plenty of others are a lot worse off than they are. T / F
12. When empathizing with others, I imagine how I would feel in a given situation and assume the same would be true for them. We’re all basically the same, aren’t we? T / F
True empathy can only occur when we have successfully shed all preconceived ideas and judgments about others and listen to what’s being said—and not said. If you answered true more often to the second set than the first, you may benefit from learning more about how to respond with empathy, how to really hear someone. It may be one of the most important work skills you can master.
You may also like this YouTube video I recently recorded which explores how to improve your listening skills.