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Resilience Skills : The importance of demonstrating empathy in the workplace

If, as one responsible for others, you were told that managers demonstrating empathy in the workplace –

  • managed teams who worked more efficiently and effectively through tight deadlines, stressful challenges and emotional circumstances
  • helped to create engaged team members who felt they were appreciated, valued, enjoyed a real sense of team spirit and were making a positive contribution to the organisation’s goals
  • were considered to be performing better in their role by their bosses

Is it a skill you would consider investing time to develop?

It is now acknowledged that empathy can be learned and the value, in terms of performance and effectiveness, it can add to a manager’s toolkit. Forward-thinking organisations realise the need to help their leaders enhance such skills through coaching, training and developmental opportunities.

Those who have focused on improving their empathy in the workplace have found it helpful to remember the following tips when using empathetic responses:

  • To remember the difference between sympathy and empathy
  • That giving time to talking with team members and understanding, developing and caring for them is as important as supporting them in any task-orientated skill
  • That empathy does not mean you have to approve of the employee’s cause; it is not your position to judge but to acknowledge the root of their distress
  • That being a manager who is a good listener helps team members feel more respected and from that seed trust grows
  • To listen actively and look out for non-verbal cues e.g. facial expressions, how fast they are talking, their tone of voice, hand gestures
  • That you need to understand those with very different perspective, experience and culture to yourself

If you decide to improve your empathetic skills, you might find it helpful to remember this quote by the Austrian psychotherapist, Alfred Adler :

“Empathy is …
seeing with the eyes of another
listening with the ears of another
and feeling with the heart of another”


This is one of a series of articles on aspects of resilience. You can access them all from this post Resilience Skills: An A-Z of definitions of the terms used.


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