What is Empathy and why do we need it? A lot of times we confuse empathy with sympathy. In the past organizations have been good with being sympathetic to employees, but in the future of work it is empathy, not sympathy that is crucial for organizations to have.
A lot of people confuse empathy and sympathy. Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone else’s circumstances, empathy on the other hand is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It means putting yourself in someone else’s shoes to not just say you feel sorry for them, but to actually imagine how hard it must be to be in that situation.
In the past organizations have been good at being sympathetic, but they have struggled with being empathetic. Unlike in the past when most organizations had hierarchies where there really was no need for upper management to be empathetic, in today’s organizations we are beginning to see why it is so crucial to have empathy in the workplace. We have different generations of workers, we have work/life integration that is starting to happen, we have a war for the best talent and many other reasons why employee experience is becoming a priority for organizations.
But the fact is, employee experience cannot happen unless we embrace empathy. We have to be understanding when an employee has a sick kid, we have to be genuinely interested in getting feedback, we have to build collaboration and increase transparency. To do these things we have to have empathy.
Don’t be a sympathetic organization, be an empathetic organization. Empathy is the one thing that is going to differentiate your company from all the other companies out there.
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My new book, The Employee Experience Advantage (Wiley, March 2017) analyzes over 250 global organizations to understand how to create a place where people genuinely want to show up to work. Subscribe to the newsletter here.