Much of how we treat each other is based on empathy — or the lack of it. If we don’t take time to consider the feelings, opinions, experiences and perspectives of the people around us, then there is no foundation for respectful interactions or conversations.
Many of us may have been taught empathy as a core value at a young age. However, exercising empathy in the workplace is a whole other challenge.
We aren’t often trained, either as individuals or in a management or leadership position, how to practice empathy at work. And this lack of training or awareness around empathy in a professional setting can lead to a breakdown in communication, unfair circumstances and inequality among peers.
Fortunately, this toolkit is here to walk you through practical ways to foster empathy at work. You’ll learn what empathy entails, as well as tactical steps to change your own behavior and contribute to an empathetic workplace culture that is inclusive and productive.
We listen all the time — to the radio, to music while we work, to our coworkers in meetings. But how often are we actually taking in what we hear? Active listening is the process of concentrating fully on a speaker, understanding what they’re saying and responding appropriately. To practice active listening, one must understand its components, and what it looks and feels like in practice.
Whether you’re in a supervisory position or an entry-level one, understanding how to give and receive feedback is an important part of doing your job well. As a manager and as a peer, you need to be able to provide honest, constructive criticism and praise.
Traditionally, most professionals are taught that they have to be competitive and cunning to get ahead in the workplace. However, a new trend is on the rise that sees employees and leaders focus on promoting empathy and emotional intelligence — and for good reason. Although a little competition in the workplace can be good, exercising empathy and emotional intelligence in your office can make you a better employee, leader and friend.
Understanding both your own style of conflict management and that of the person with whom you are speaking will help you to respectfully and successfully navigate disagreements when they arise. Knowledge of how the other person thinks and reacts will allow you to practice empathy and approach your interaction with them from a place of understanding rather than judgment.
Sometimes biases can be trivial, like preferring the color blue over orange. Other times, they can significantly impact people’s lives and careers. Biases not only impact the people on the receiving end — the employee who is consistently passed over for promotions, or the team member whose name is constantly mispronounced — but the organization as well. Biased behavior harms employee performance, which ultimately impacts agency performance.
How do you make diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) part of your agency’s culture? Like all cultural challenges, it’s difficult but doable. And it’s an essential part to a thriving workplace.