Empathy in the Workplace

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Allison Tanner

Allison has a Masters of Arts in Political Science. She has worked in the customer service and food industry since 2013.

Empathy is an important characteristic in relating to others. This lesson discusses empathy in the workplace and the importance of using empathy at work.

Empathy in the Workplace

Lisa spilled coffee on her suit, dropped her papers on the way to a meeting, and tripped while walking into the room 10 minutes late for her presentation. As if that wasn't enough, her supervisor, John, snidely says, 'Well, couldn't have done that any better, could you, Lisa?'

Not willing to let this mishap ruin a great day, Empathy Man (E.M.) swoops in, settles on John's shoulder, and gives him a quick lesson on empathy. E.M. tells John that empathy is the ability to connect to, experience, and understand what someone else is feeling. It goes above and beyond feeling sorry for someone. It is a real connection that allows you to react with compassion.

The key characteristics of empathy include:

  • Ability to listen to others
  • Being open to others feelings
  • Understanding feelings and emotion of others

E.M. goes on to say that empathy in the workplace is the ability to connect to, relate to, and understand the feelings and emotions of colleagues.

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Importance of Workplace Empathy

Rather than being empathetic to Lisa, John was rude. E.M. tells John to imagine how embarrassed Lisa must have been by his comment. She is already having a bad day, and instead of showing kindness, he tried to crack a joke. Empathy is important because it allows co-workers to connect to one another and enhances a positive work environment.

In general, when a work environment has empathetic leadership, it is more productive, nurtures a positive culture, and can reduce workplace conflict because it allows staff to feel respected, heard, and valued.

E.M. tells John that he can probably imagine how upset Lisa was by his comment. After the meeting, she may complain to other staff members. More importantly, because of John's lack of empathy, Lisa is more likely to disengage and remove herself from her work. As frustration builds, the workplace may become a more negative environment for employees.

Now, E.M. has John imagine that instead of mocking Lisa he had simply gone up to her and quietly said, 'Good morning Lisa, It looks like you are having a tough morning. Take your time to get settled, we can get going in a moment.' E.M. goes on to say that after the meeting John could have said to Lisa, 'I'm sorry to see that you had a rough start this morning. Is there anything I can do for future meetings to help make this an easier process?'

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