It may come as a surprise to some business leaders that empathy – or the ability to sense and understand (on some level) other people’s emotions – is actually a strength in the business world, not a weakness.
This is a human resources issue and is subjective by nature. Cynics may be inclined to dismiss this as a “soft” dynamic of human capital management and one that detracts from more serious concerns. But the truth is that this ability, if harnessed and carefully woven into the fabric of a company’s people management strategy, can be a very useful tool.
It’s a cliché, but the fundamental truth about human resources is that businesses are really only as strong as their weakest link. One of the main advantages of empathy is that it helps bind the team, strengthens relations between employees, and – as any manager will tell you – a strong team achieves strong results.
But more than that there is a link between empathy and customer care. As Careercontess.com states, empathy allows the staff member to establish a connection with, and understanding of the customer. This enhances service levels and improves the customer experience.
It makes sense – if an employee has the ability to mentally and emotionally place themselves in the shoes of his/her customer, there is little doubt that the interaction will be mutually beneficial. We all know that in business, impressions mean a great deal and it is actions that speak much louder than words.
And it’s not only from the employee’s side. Sbonline.com suggests that when it comes to leadership styles and approaches, those based on empathy evoke feelings of morale and loyalty among staff, and confidence and pride among customers.
Of course, despite the many advantages associated with empathy in the workplace, there are disadvantages.
Entrepreneur.com writes about the dangers of being an empathetic leader and explains the rationale that while empathy is most certainly a skill for leaders to have because “they cannot effectively lead someone they don’t understand”, the reality of empathy is that it can actually drive poor decision-making.
The article starts with the statement “empathy on its own is not enough” and if you think about it, it does make sense. Emotional attachment can blur the lines between what is real and what is “sensed” or “felt”. That is not to say one cannot trust one’s own emotions – but from a business point of view, feelings alone are more often than not only one aspect; there is more to explore and sort out before a decision is made.
There is more. Werknet.co.za lists several reasons as to why there is a negative to empathy, including emotional anxiety and burnout, misplaced loyalty, and clouded judgement. To achieve more balance, the website suggests aiming for more objectivity, to “distribute empathy”, take the necessary time out to relax, refocus and relieve stress.
CRS Technologies would argue that these considerations are particularly relevant in today’s stressful, high-impact, technology-driven digital economies.
So, the essence of the empathy in the workplace is that there are pros and cons. There is a good side and a not-so-good side, and much depends on the kind of business, style of leadership, the mission and vision, and team dynamic.
As we always say at CRS Technologies, the more information you have, the better… and we are also always available for guidance, insight, help and resources.