Why Empathy Makes Good Business Sense

Part three of a multi-part series on Emotional Intelligence

Mark, a former client of mine, was a 35-year-old marketing director on the fast track. Being type-A personality, he was driven for success. But Mark was not winning much favor from his employees — they found that his feedback was often given in a drive-by, “hit-and-run” manner and left them feeling like roadkill. He rarely gave praise, was overly critical of everyone’s performance, was focused solely on results, and didn’t ever take the time to notice how his abrasive manner was affecting morale. 

To turn the situation around, Mark’s company provided him with coaching, including 360-degree feedback. While he was glad his bosses thought that he was a high achiever, he was crushed to learn that his employees felt he was so insensitive.

“I don’t do the feeling stuff,” Mark said when his boss told him to be more empathetic to his team. “I don’t have the time, but I guess I need to give it a try.”

Through coaching, Mark would soon realize how his lack of empathy was directly impacting the bottom line. And with some simple adjustments to his style, he could not only turn around the perception that he was an unfeeling taskmaster — he could ensure that he was a net positive to his company’s finances.

Empathy, according to OKA, a leading expert in the field of Emotional Intelligence, is one’s ability to take notice of and be sensitive to other people’s needs and feelings.  With too little empathy, one will be perceived as inattentive, uncompassionate, detached, distant, self-centered – and, yes, even selfish.

At its core, empathy is the ability to see the world from another person’s perspective, the capacity to tune into what someone else might be thinking and feeling about a situation – regardless of how that view might differ from your own perception.  When we walk over to see the world from another’s perspective, we make it safe for them to share their emotions, reveal important information about their beliefs and values, build trusting relationships, and clear the way for meaningful and productive dialogue.

There is nothing soft or weak about showing empathy - it is a strength embodied by some of the greatest leaders of all time in every area of life. Whether at home, in our community, in our government, empathy is a critical skill for relationship building.

So what’s the advantage of building one’s empathy in a business setting? For starters: More trust, more open communication, more engagement — and better employee retention. After all: People don’t leave jobs; they leave bosses.

How can you develop and support empathy? Try adjusting these key behaviors and awarenesses:

  • Take a genuine interest in what your colleagues and employees are feeling. Ask questions without immediately planning how you will respond.

  • Become comfortable with labeling your own feelings (see my last blog), which will make you more adept at imagining how the other person is feeling.

  • Reflect on a time when someone in your life took a moment to acknowledge how you were feeling, and made you feel safe to say anything. How did that feel?

  • Describe a situation where you were not as empathetic to someone’s feelings as you should have been. Why do you think this was the case? What was the result?

  • What will you do differently in the future?

  • What belief would you need to let go of to be able to be more consistently empathetic?

  • What can you do right away to demonstrate greater empathy to someone who matters to you?

If you’re ready to take the next step in your Emotional Intelligence, reach out for a complimentary connection call.

Ready to start? Take this short EQ Quiz and find out where you stand:

Matthew CallahanComment