In a recent survey of 150 CEOs, over 80 percent recognized empathy as key to success. Empathic workplaces tend to enjoy stronger collaboration, less stress and greater morale, and their employees bounce back more quickly from difficult experiences such as layoffs.
Here are a few ways leaders can build empathy in their workplace:
- ACKNOWLEDGE THE POTENTIAL FOR GROWTH: Empathy is less like a trait and more like a skill. The first step toward building empathy is acknowledging that it can be built.
- HIGHLIGHT THE RIGHT NORMS: The loudest voices are seldom the kindest, but when they dominate conversations, they can also hijack perceptions. Leaders can fight back by drawing attention to the right behaviors. At any moment, some individuals in an organization are acting kindly while others are not. Empathy often belongs to a quiet majority. Foregrounding it — for instance through incentives and recognition — can allow employees to see its prevalence, turning up the volume on a positive norm.
- FIND CULTURE LEADERS AND CO-CREATE WITH THEM: Every group has people who encourage team cohesion even though it’s not part of their formal role. These individuals might not be the most popular or powerful, but they are the most connected. Information, ideas and values flow through them. To build empathic cultures, leaders can begin by identifying connectors and recruiting them for help championing the cause. This not only increases the likelihood that new ideals will “take,” but also allows employees to be recognized for connecting with others.
Copyright 2019 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.