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Empathy in the Workplace

Maybe you're having a bad day or you notice that a co-worker/employee is going through a rough time. What exactly do you do and/or how do you react? Enter empathy.

Empathy is a type of emotional intelligence and it is the ability to comprehend and sense what another person is feeling or experiencing. Unlike sympathy, someone who has empathy is able to put themselves in another's shoes almost and truly feel what that person feels.

Your friends or family provide empathetic feelings, but, do you feel empathy in the workplace? Is it a necessary emotion to even have or bring into the workplace? If you see a co-worker or employee clearly upset, should you or should you not express empathy towards them? The short answer is, everyone is human, and empathy is typically accepted in the workplace. But is it cultivated/executed correctly? Find out!

Professional Empathy

empathy in the workplace
Don't be afraid to reach out to a co-worker/employee.

Some companies bring experts in for formal trainings on this subject. But what if a training isn't possible? It's safe to say then that it's okay for co-workers and employees to express empathy to one another, but, they must keep personal space and social queues in mind when doing so. This is 'professional empathy'. Be supportive without being pushy. Or, use the scale method.

According to Forbes, a 1 to 10 scale method is a "great tool for managers and other company executives so that they can check in with employees and start a conversation" by sensing where they may be or feel on the scale but to not push them to express all of their personal details. This not only can show flexibility, but also shows support in a professional manner. So whether you decide to have an open-culture workplace, an empathy scale rating, or specific workplace training, find what works and stick to it.

Be wary though that once an empathetic work culture has been cultivated, it does not get abused or overused. Hence, why keeping a professional empathy workplace is important. This type of empathy "ensures that co-workers feel supported, while not invading their privacy" (Forbes).

Open your door, open your heart, open your ears. But remember that professionally, there always needs to be boundaries. Never pry someone, unless they are very willing to discuss their feelings. Never make them feel uncomfortable or that their feelings are not important. Just ask, listen, and notice body language or other social queues.

At the end of the day, empathy in the workplace creates an environment that is more welcoming and positive, and might create a more efficient and productive workplace as well.

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