Empathy is the current buzzword out there today post-pandemic because we don’t want to go back to the way things were, and after everything we’ve been through I don’t know that we can.

Today we will be discussing the potential reasons why companies fail to implement Empathy into their work environments as well as some tips to help you avoid them.

I like my bad news up front so I’ve narrowed it down to five main reasons why implementing empathy is so difficult because if it was super easy we would all have companies that had an empathetic culture, but as you workers and employees know that is definitely not the case. So why not just implement it? Why not roll this out and we all will be happier?  Well there are some major road blocks, specifically for middle medium to large size companies.

1. Lack of Ease: The first and foremost reason why is – it’s not super easy. It’s not an initiative that is easy to implement overnight. Simply coming up with a four-step rollout plan with a few pretty posters and then slap the award of empathetic culture on your website. That just doesn’t work. You can’t have a three-hour zoom meeting or a four-hour webinar that everyone’s required to take and then suddenly everyone’s just oozing empathy. It’s more of a cultural paradigm shift and a cultural principle if you will.  It requires buy in from all levels in order to function

2. Lack of Understanding: One of the primary reasons why empathy implementation fails in the workplace is a lack of understanding of what empathy means and how it should be applied. Empathy is not just about being kind and sympathetic to others, but it also involves actively listening, understanding the needs of others, and responding appropriately. Without a clear understanding of what empathy means, it can be challenging to implement it effectively in the workplace.

      • For example, internal employee accommodations. Sometimes accommodations are seen as unfair. It creates a kind of empathy trap where employees who need those accommodations are seen as less desirable. An even more specific example would be if you have someone who has a “neurodiverse brain”.  Some brains work very typical and therefore those people tend to “act” in ways that we’re kind of used to which is why society has primarily been built around the “neurotypical” individual. But there are lots of other people, for example people with ADHD, called the neurodivergent. Their brains do work differently and would require a different kind of a schedule. Or maybe a work construct that differs from your typical employee. Now for whatever reason, as a culture we believe that policies should be unilateral where everyone should abide by the same managerial restrictions. Right?  The problem is that none of us are the same whether you’re neurodiverse or neurotypical, a different race, a different religion, different gender identity whatever it is we are very complex creatures.  Whoever thought that we could have all of the same rules and construct of our work and then get the same output really didn’t understand humans or human nature. So as long as we view those accommodations as unfair we will never truly adopt an empathy principle that we can have throughout our companies.

3. Lack of Leadership Support: Another reason why empathy implementation fails is a lack of leadership support. Empathy is not just the responsibility of individual employees, but it should also be embedded in the culture and values of the organization. Without leadership support, empathy can be perceived as a soft skill, and employees may not see the value in practicing it.

4. Lack of ability to relinquish Control: You have to relinquish control or dominance over your employees. We all have had those “managers”, we call them micromanagers. But it’s not as simple as that. It’s not only “control” of an individual employee’s task list. It’s the working hours control piece of it. We see this a lot in managers where they need you here at 8am, don’t be a minute late, and you can’t leave till 5pm, etc. And no you can’t go pick up your kids for such and such activity and if you do, you better make up that hour. Because somehow your salaried but still treated as an hourly employee. That’s where releasing some of that control helps create empathy.  Focus on outputs versus inputs. Focus on what do I need get from my employees and am I getting that. That’s where you can manage to their production or how their service is when they’re doing their work but not so much of butts in seats specifically or even the location of their butt in the seat. We see it right now all over the news of companies want to get employees back into the office.  To the employees that feels more like a control issue since for the most part they have successfully been executing their jobs at home for the past 2+ years.

5. Resistance to Change: Finally, implementing empathy in the workplace can fail due to resistance to change. Some employees may feel uncomfortable or uncertain about practicing empathy, especially if it is not something they are used to. Additionally, some employees may feel that empathy is not necessary in a work environment, and they may resist any efforts to introduce it. Overcoming resistance to change requires clear communication, training, and ongoing support from leadership.

Managing with empathy is a crucial skill for any leader in any industry. It involves understanding and relating to your employees on a personal level, and actively working to create a supportive and nurturing work environment. When done effectively, managing with empathy can increase employee satisfaction, retention, and productivity.

Now for some good news! Here are some quick tips for managing with empathy:

  1. Listen actively: Take the time to truly listen to your employees’ concerns and needs. When they come to you with a problem or issue, give them your full attention and ask questions to better understand the situation.
  2. Acknowledge emotions: Empathy involves recognizing and understanding the emotions of others. When an employee expresses frustration, anger, or sadness, acknowledge their feelings and offer support.
  3. Show appreciation: Recognize and acknowledge your employees’ hard work and accomplishments. Celebrate their successes, and let them know that their contributions are valued.
  4. Provide flexibility: Understand that your employees have lives outside of work, and be willing to offer flexibility when needed. This could mean offering a flexible work schedule or allowing employees to work remotely.
  5. Lead by example: As a manager, you set the tone for the work environment. Lead by example by exhibiting empathy and kindness towards your employees. When they see that you value empathy, they are more likely to exhibit those same traits towards their coworkers.
  6. Encourage open communication: Create an environment where your employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and concerns with you. Encourage open communication by holding regular one-on-one meetings and team meetings where everyone has an opportunity to share their thoughts.
  7. Provide support: Be available to your employees when they need support. Whether it’s helping them navigate a challenging project or providing resources to help them achieve their goals, offering support can go a long way in building trust and loyalty.