Having empathy as a leader is no longer just the "nice-to-have" trait, it's necessary to drive business success and results. Science confirms that when leaders demonstrate understanding and care, innovation flourishes, and employee retention grows stronger - all of which are major indicators of strong leadership abilities.
The Effects of Stress on Employees
Every day, more and more of us are feeling the effects of stress, mostly as a result from our lives being turned upside down due to the pandemic. According to a Qualtrics survey, 42% reported experiencing a drop in their mental health: 67% increased levels of stress; 57%, anxiety; 54%, emotional exhaustion. These are just some examples that show how these overwhelming times can take an immense toll on people's wellbeing.
A plethora of research has highlighted how potentially detrimental stress in the workplace can be, extending beyond our professional lives to both our performance and personal relationships. Studies conducted at Occupational Health Science, University of Illinois and Carleton University all indicated that when we experience incivility or rudeness during work hours it overshadows everything else; leading to a decrease in productivity as well as poor customer service skills. Also, a new study at Georgetown University discovered that workplace discourtesy is rising, resulting in reduced performance and collaboration among employees, and a decline in positive customer experiences, all contributing to a decrease in turnover.
How to Receive Employee Feedback
Creating a Safe and Welcoming Environment
One of the most important aspects of receiving feedback is creating a safe and welcoming environment for employees to share their thoughts and opinions. This includes actively listening to employees, showing empathy, and avoiding judgment or defensiveness.
Offering Multiple Feedback Channels
To encourage feedback, it's important to offer multiple channels for employees to share their thoughts. This can include in-person conversations, anonymous surveys, suggestion boxes, or online forums. Providing a range of channels can help employees feel more comfortable sharing their feedback and increase the likelihood of receiving honest and varied perspectives.
Empathy Results in Positive Outcomes
Showing empathy in the workplace can have a profound impact on employee engagement and innovation. A recent study conducted by Catalyst revealed that employees with leaders who demonstrate empathy are more likely to report feeling innovative, engaged and positive about their work environment.
Empathy towards employees is essential to a productive workplace. Being respected and valued by the company can enhance employee retention. Furthermore, having an empathetic leader in place has been found to foster greater levels of inclusion within employers.
Empathy increases cooperation and helps us better manage our work-life balance. This is evidenced by a Qualtrics study which showed that 86% of people with empathetic leaders reported successfully juggling personal, family and professional obligations. Likewise, research from Evolutionary Biology found empathy encourages more collaboration between team members - even increasing their levels of understanding towards each other. When it comes to mental health benefits too; the same survey revealed individuals perceiving greater levels of empathy experienced an marked improvement in this area as well.
Our natural capacity for empathy has been studied in detail, and its positive results are clear. In a study from Lund University, children as young as two already had the understanding that others have different perspectives than their own. Meanwhile research at UVA showed how our brains experience activity when we witness threats to those close to us, indicating feelings of compassion can go beyond just ourselves. Empathy is an essential part of both professional and personal environments - contributing significantly towards more successful outcomes all around.
Lead with Empathy
Leaders who demonstrate empathy have an edge - they can consider another's thoughts through cognitive understanding and their feelings via emotional intelligence. Being successful, however, requires more than just looking out for others. Conveying concerns and listening to employees' mindsets is the best way to show genuine care.
Being an empathetic leader is not a complicated task. Just check in on your team, be aware when they need to talk and show them you care by asking questions. And if needed, provide resources that the company offers so everyone can get proper support for their mental health needs.
Ultimately, people will remember how you make them feel much more than what was said. Leading with empathy is truly pivotal in creating a positive work environment, where employees feel appreciated, where collaboration can flourish, and where a business can grow.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can enhance the relationship between your organisation and its employees you can contact us using the form below.