Empathy at Work: 10 Steps to Improving Empathy

empathy at workIf you want to become a better manager, work on improving your empathy. Ask clarifying questions to understand your people’s situations better. Be sure to focus on emotional cues. Appreciate not only what others are saying, but also how and why they are saying it. Also listen for what’s not being said.

I can’t stress enough how much empathy plays into effective management and leadership. In the work I do coaching executives, the ones who have the most trouble are those who never learned to express care.

Empathy at Work: The Trickle-Down Theory

Empathetic managers are more likely to inspire others. They are generally well liked and command greater respect, which means their direct reports will be motivated to go the extra mile.

I’m reminded of stories from Bob Sutton’s book, Good Boss, Bad Boss. I hear about such “good bosses” from my coaching clients, but I also hear complaints about “bad bosses.” It doesn’t take much for a boss to get labeled as a jerk. More often than not, it’s because he or she hasn’t listened, hasn’t asked the right questions, and acts authoritatively without empathy.

Clashpoints at Work: More Generational Clash Points

Older workers expect a phone call or a visit on important issues and will immediately schedule and plan a meeting to involve significant stakeholders. This frustrates younger workers, who want to meet on the spur of the moment, as soon as possible.

When I’m coaching older managers, I listen to their complaints and they have a point. But so do younger workers.

For example, they see nothing wrong with texting superiors and peers instead of scheduling face-to-face meetings, and they like to communicate and solve problems virtually. When faced with a need to meet, they try to contact everyone immediately and begin videoconferencing, chatting, texting, talking and tweeting—often all at the same time.