Empathy – how does it matter?

The human being is made up of an array of emotions, most of them complex and difficult to understand. Empathy is all about being able to understand the needs of others, understanding what they’re feeling and thinking.

It is commonly mistaken for sympathy and tend not to realise that empathy requires a deeper understanding than just feeling sorry for the person.

Organisations, over the years, have built hierarchical structures to have more control over their people with the expectation that it will bring better results. Some have even gone to the extent of reducing face-to-face conversations to ensure that people are being more productive. We have stopped realizing that people have a personal life and have been made to separate our personal and professional lives.

We obviously cannot just blame management for this – technology has also taken over in such a way that it has drastically reduced the time spent interacting with each other. Social networks have reduced this human interaction with artificial ‘like’ buttons. We are now missing conversations with empathy.

Empathy matters more than ever in business. Empathy builds trust. When you show that you are aware and appreciate your people’s feelings, they start to trust you. As a leader, you can use the understanding that you have of their feelings to be supportive and encourage them, thus, strengthening your relationship with them.  We all know what that means – creating more engaged employees, encouraging them to do their best, and thus, increasing their productivity.

We are driving towards a time when empathy is becoming a necessity for businesses to survive and all leaders must be cultivating this soft skill. Once we learn to focus on others, we will understand that empathy leads to hard and tangible results, for you and for the organisation.

About the author(s)

Maria Zahra is Managing Director of SurgeAdvisory. She has over fourteen years of human resources and business advisory experience.