Empathy in The Workplace
By Christel Broederlow
I have been writing about empathy for nearly 20 years, it is the driving force behind everything I have ever done, and will ever do. I am currently writing my first book, a guide to empathy which provides an overview of just how much empathy plays an integral role in our lives, and my next book will quickly follow suit and will be primarily focused on empathy in the workplace.
Every day we are either under the influence of leadership through our work, community, political leaders, education, sports, religion, laws and regulations and so forth or directly in the role of leadership such as a CEO, company director and all team leader positions; leading hand, foreman, supervisor, coach, principal, council member etc. Lest we forget one crucial leadership position that we all have experience with – parenting (as a child or the parent). We are always being ushered along or directed by others whether we are aware of this or not.
Empathy in The Workplace is a topic close to my heart that has left an impressionable mark on me from the very first day I started working part time as a student/teenager whilst I was still in High School and over the next 35yrs the experiences I have gathered between New Zealand and Australia were both memorable and some of them not so. I am certain we could all tell some eyebrow-raising stories of our personal work experiences that many of us could relate too.
It would inevitably entail having to experience both (directly and indirectly) the full spectrum of leadership in order to understand and identify strengths and weaknesses including being managed by others and in positions of leading a team myself, regardless what has continuously stood out at an ever increasingly alarming rate is being confronted with the lack of empathy leadership across all industries and in all sectors.
Leadership is not a given, nor a right bestowed upon another as the be-all end-all, nor is it a position of power to take advantage of (others) – yet it repeatedly is. Fact is, true leadership does not come naturally to some, we have all met people in a said position who quite frankly aren’t suited to the role in any way shape or form. Without effort we can bring to the forefront of our minds people who we have worked directly under who failed miserably as a team leader, as managers and/or business owners, let alone pinpoint with ease political leaders governing our countries to identify some stand out candidates who lack credibility on the leadership stakes.
Leadership comes with many innate traits, some people are just born to be great leaders in whatever field they are drawn too, for those who aren’t, training is available and it is an investment for any company no matter how large or small to ensure their team leaders receive ongoing training so that they are capable in delivering the most effective form of team leadership and only in the most recent times has it been recognised that one of the most crucial of skills a leader can have, is that of empathy.
Yes, good ole empathy. And if you aren’t adept in this area, it doesn’t come naturally to you for whatever reasons that may be, you’d be placing yourself in a strong position to be identified in your resumes and recommendations as having, ‘exceptional skills in empathy leadership’, as its rewards are in hot demand globally. Fortunately, empathy can be learned, but the aim should really be to develop your empathy to a high level that becomes innate (as it is intended) and there is a distinct difference between innate and learned, ask any person with innate empathy (find yourself an Empath) and they will quickly point out what areas you fail in. Regardless leadership with Empathy at the helm can be learned and applied with incredible outcomes for all. It is a massive game-changer for all businesses.
Staff retention is one of the most expensive outlays to businesses which costs billions of dollars annually in Australia and New Zealand, let alone on a global scale and with so much research readily available it is being identified that 50% of businesses experience staff turnover costs due to lack of empathy coming from the management level.
Let’s face it, no one likes to work under management who suck at their jobs! It’s the hard-cold facts! They can make life a living hell, drive you to resenting their very presence and making a person seriously hate their job. It can create the most stressful environment to everyone caught up under the wrath of poor leadership and inevitably effect one’s health and lead to people walking off the job and not ever returning.
Poor leadership starts from the top and filters all the way down, if there is a manager over your position, then who is responsible to ensure effective training is delivered? Every person along the management funnel is.
People don’t just leave for no good reason, there is always a driving factor and if they feel downright unhappy with management what is being done about it, do management even know, let alone care? The effects of staff leaving in droves is far broader than management may be willing to identify and that in itself is a major problem. I know of companies where staff are leaving faster than they are coming in, yet management continuously shift the blame and responsibility upon their employees rather than take a good hard look at themselves and what they have created. And that starts from the owners of these company’s and makes its way down to everyone in a leadership role. No amount of open communication from the team leaders is respected by the owners, they are shunted because inflated egos appear to be of far greater priority.
Financial loss to any business caused by staff turnover is substantial and will have direct consequences in many areas within the organisation from productivity, performance and profitability to human resources in hiring new staff and retraining as being the most obviously noted. For a very long time, the least attention was given to workplace harmony, health and the well-being of the individual and the collective (all involved) and it is in these overlooked key areas that the flow on effect can be the costliest as it unavoidably extends beyond the workplace and into the home, family and friendships, even within our communities – it is all encompassing.
In the USA, disgruntled employees have taken to arming themselves and killing innocent people in mass shootings across the United States, many other countries have experienced the most tragic of events where innocent people have been killed through employees feeling as though they were treated with absolute disregard by their employer or someone in management, that they didn’t amount to anything, they felt that empathy was null and void and would act out in the most atrociously violent of ways. Empathy is critical to creating a harmonious work/life balance and when we acknowledge how many hours out of every given week, year in, year out is devoted to working, who doesn’t want to work in an environment that you enjoy being a part of?
Empathy is the Key to Great Leadership!
My goal is to bring awareness to effective leadership that is governed by Empathy and not just in the workplace but in all areas of our lives, including our relationships with family, friends, neighbours, and people we come face to face with every day and of course our colleagues to name but a handful and to also enhance and strengthen your own leadership potential.
Thank you for joining me on a journey with Empathy leading the way – it is time for a natural shift.
Copyright © 2017 Christel Broederlow | Empathy In The Workplace