Growing Empathy in the Workplace

pexels-photo-1068523-1“People will try to convince you that you should keep empathy out of your career. Don’t accept this false premise.”

This quote came from Apple CEO Tim Cook during his 2017 commencement address at MIT. And he’s right. When entering Corporate America, so many are convinced that they need to put empathy aside and enter the cutthroat, competitive professional world and conform to the idea that career-driven individuals are also shallow and lack compassion.

However, we choose to side with Cook on this topic. And, evidently, CEOs across the country agree with him, but are not necessarily taking steps to help employees prioritize empathy as part of their career advancement. When Cook originally made this speech, only 20 percent of employers in the U.S. offered empathy training for managers. However, a recent survey of 150 CEOs found that more than 80 percent of them recognized empathy as a key to success.

According to the Harvard Business Review, companies that emphasize empathy:

  • Have stronger collaboration
  • Experience less stress
  • Enjoy greater morale
  • Have more resilient employees

So, whether you’re a company that has previously focused on empathy and wants to ramp up your efforts, or you’re one that is ready to change your company culture to focus on fostering empathy, there are a few ways to do so. Here are some tips:

  • Encourage employees to explore empathy as a tool for growth. Show them research that demonstrates how employees and organizations have become more successful when focusing on empathy. If empathy isn’t something employees have concentrated their efforts on before, it’s important to show them that empathy is not just a trait, but a skill that they can learn to use in their professional lives.
  • Highlight opportunities to reward empathetic behavior. Have employees who are constantly helping each other out? Recognize that! Have employees who take time each week or month to volunteer? Recognize that, too! Show that your company sees empathy and encourages it.
  • Create a division, group or committee that encourages building an improved company culture. When employees encourage employees, change happens. Giving your team the opportunity to promote change within your organization will increase camaraderie and morale. These committees can do things like organize team volunteer outings, start a Corporate Social Responsibility program and lead other campaigns that the company as a whole can support, like anti-bullying, social justice, women’s rights or environmental conservation.

When companies prioritize empathy, change happens in all aspects of business. So let’s all take a page out of Tim Cook’s book and make empathy part of our professional lives!