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One characteristic of an emotionally intelligent culture is the skill of employees to understand and respect the perspectives of others and responding with compassion. That, of course, is empathy.
You’ve got a goldmine if your workplace is filled with employees who relate well to the emotions, experiences and thoughts of their co-workers.
Yes, for maximum cohesion and productivity, one of the biggest challengers for managers is to create a culture of empathy. But it doesn’t come easily.
It’s also important to be balanced in your quest for workplace empathy. As a boss, you can be too empathetic.
Here are important points to remember:
1. A culture of empathy starts with the boss
The road to success will start when the bosses practice what they preach. They go all out to understand their employees’ points-of-view.
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Effective bosses ask open-ended questions, such as: “Tell me more about…” Or, “Please help me to understand…”
In dealing with conflict, it’s vital to understand the emotions and motivations of employees.
2. Strive for fairness
Employees want fairness. They’re sensitive to rejection. Social exclusion is very painful.
The lack of fairness coupled with rejection is known as an empathy gap.
When employees feel snubbed or ignored, they get emotional. They lash out in inappropriate ways.
3. Monitor your workplace for possible empathy gaps
Beware of employees who aren’t empathetic. Morale suffers when employees don’t get empathy they feel they deserve.
Walking a mile in someone else’s moccasins doesn’t always lead to empathy.
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It might be hard to believe, but often, employees who suffer a personal hardship fail to show compassion in others who suffer the same hardship.
Callousness isn’t conducive for teamwork and workplace empathy.
4. Understand that employees don’t always empathize the same way
More than likely, you have two opposites of personalities working for you and they perceive harm differently.
Note the difference in viewpoints of egalitarians vis-à-vis anti-egalitarians:
Egalitarians favor a flatter, pecking order, social scale or perhaps a socialistic environment. They tend to show the most empathy.
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Anti-egalitarians prefer a strong social hierarchy. When persons with a high social status are victimized, they get more empathy from anti-egalitarians.
For example, if a a lower-paid employee victimized, everybody is empathetic, especially the egalitarians.
But if you as the boss or if your boss is victimized, anti-egalitarians will feel empathetic more than the egalitarians. The latter type of personality thinks high-status people can more easily deal with financial or emotional harm.
5. Be fair to the organization with your empathy
Workplace empathy can actually go too far. For example, if you let employees get away with unproductive or unethical behavior.
Look for employees who seem to be tired or overworked.
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Such employees often begin to feel like they’re victims and justify their bad behavior. They feel worn down and they’re more likely to behave unethically, such as in cheating on their expense reports. (In psychology that’s known as ego depletion.)
Many bosses have a tendency to be lenient even in employees’ ethical lapses. Don’t be one of those bosses. Punish those employees or they’ll keep behaving badly.
From the Coach’s Corner, here are related sources of information:
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HR: Avoid Bias in Evaluating Top Employees Who Backslide — Don’t be too lenient with talented employees with a history of strong performance but who decline in their work. Document every event in any downtrend of performance. Inevitably, many terminated employees will file claims accusing you of discrimination.
Strategic HR Management for Retaining High Performers — There are parallels between successful rock climbers and high performing employees. They‘re engineered to enjoy pressure without letting it become stress. Your organization will profit with a culture of high performers.
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16 Best Practices to Stay out of Legal Trouble with Employees — Generally, in human resources, companies find themselves in legal hot water because they inadvertently make mistakes with their employees. It’s important to triple down on preventative measures and responses to legal hazards when necessary. Here are Biz Coach tips.
“The greater the difficulty, the more the glory in surmounting it.”