Surprisingly, research shows just 20% of the population is naturally empathetic and life is different for these individuals and those they come in contact with. It makes a big difference in personal lives and carries over into the workplace too.
What is Empathy?
When most people think of empathy, it’s cognitive empathy which comes to mind. Those with cognitive empathy have the ability to detect and understand how others feel without asking. However, there is a second form of empathy, known as emotional empathy, in which the individual genuinely identifies with the other person and essentially feels what he or she feels.
Empathy Can Be Cultivated
If you and/or your team are not among those who are genetically predisposed to have empathy, all is not lost. Psychologists believe it can be cultivated or developed over time as well.
How Can Empathy Change the Workplace?
Simply put, most people want to feel like they’re understood and valued. Empathy is the path which leads to this. However, it impacts workplaces in a number of profound ways.
Employee Retention Increases with Empathy
One study found that if an organization empathizes with the needs of it’s employees, 95% of people are more willing to stay with it.
Employees are More Willing to Go the Extra Mile for Empathetic Employers
The same study discovered that 60% are willing to take a pay cut for an empathetic organization, and 81% will put in longer hours.
People Perform Better in Empathetic Environments
When people don’t feel understood or valued, they start to hold themselves back. In some cases, it’s a conscious decision, but other times their morale simply dives and they lose the motivation to put themselves out there. However, when people are in an empathetic environment—and this applies to regular employees and leaders—they perform better.
Empathetic Leaders are Rated Better by Their Superiors
Interestingly, researchers discovered that empathy, as rated by employees, can predict a leader’s performance ratings, as determined by his or her superior. In other words, bosses with low empathy tank when their performance reviews come around, while those rated high in empathy by their employees perform better at review time. This suggests that empathy is a major component of leadership and reaffirms how it influences the behavior of the team.
Empathetic Companies are More Diverse and Inclusive
Empathy is essential in a diverse workplace, simply because everyone will have different backgrounds, perspectives, experiences, and boundaries. Being able to understand and identify with all sorts of people is a boon for leaders, but it also ensures team members feel like they’re valued contributors.
Empathetic Companies Earn More
When Harvard compiled a list of the most empathetic companies, the university found a surprising commonality (or perhaps not-so-surprising if you’re already aware that diverse companies outperform their counterparts). Compared to the bottom ten for empathy, the top ten increased in value twice as much and generated 50% more earnings.
Cultivate Empathy and Diversity
Don’t just listen to your employees; try to understand their problems.