Empathy in the workplace

Work should not be just a place to get tasks done and where team members all lead separate lives, I believe a great working lifestyle involves getting along with colleagues and engaging with clients too. To make this happen, I think people need to have, and practice, empathy more widely.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It is important to master the power of empathy in the workplace for a happy environment for your work colleagues and clients.

There are three types of empathy identified by psychologists as: cognitive empathy, emotional empathy and compassionate empathy.

  • Cognitive empathy is about understanding someone’s thoughts and emotions, in a very rational, rather than emotional sense.
  • Emotional empathy is described as ‘catching’ someone else’s feelings, so that you literally feel them too.
  • Compassionate empathy is relating to someone’s feelings, and taking appropriate action to help them.

It’s a subject that really interests me and by looking into the elements of empathy, I believe we can apply them in everyday life and definitely in the workplace.

Understanding others is perhaps what most people understand by ‘empathy’ – ‘sensing others’ feelings and perspectives, and taking an active interest in their concerns’. And, people who do this are generally good listeners, pay attention to body language and pick-up subtle cues almost subconsciously.

Often in work situations you need to show sensitivity and understand others’ perspectives before assessing the situation.

Developing others means acting on their needs and concerns and helping them to develop to their full potential. People who have mastered this technique usually reward and praise people for their strengths and accomplishments, and provide constructive feedback designed to focus on how to improve. They provide mentoring and coaching to help others to develop to their full potential and assign tasks to help their teams to develop.

Having a service orientation – aimed majorly at work situation – means putting the needs of customers first and looking for ways to improve their satisfaction and loyalty.

People who have this approach will ‘go the extra mile’ for customers. They will genuinely understand customers’ needs, and go out of their way to help meet them whether in a conventional sense or something ‘outside of the box’.

As the face of the organisations’ we work for, this is what we look to achieve by tailoring the way we interact with team members and clients to fit with their needs, situations and feelings.

People with this skill respect and relate well to everyone, regardless of their background and they see diversity as an opportunity to learn and grow from one another, creating an atmosphere that is equal towards everyone.

Sometimes you have to step out of your shoes and look at another person’s perspective to find a suitable resolution. By using empathy you are able to build trust and often will go above and beyond and this behaviour is what makes you exceptional and inspirational to the rest of your team, an asset to the business and a God send to the customers you interact with.

Aisha Ahmed is a Client Services team member for Mitie Client Services

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