Employee Wellbeing, leadership | Article

Empathy Isn’t Enough, Unless You Do This

Empathy is valuable, but alone it is not enough to improve performance and heighten the employee experience.

Why Empathy Isn’t Enough

Empathy training is trending, and it makes sense why. Empathy means being able to understand and share someone else’s feelings. After all, leaders who understand their employees’ feelings can create more meaningful relationships. But empathizing isn’t enough. Leaders need to actually care.  

Not everyone has the talent to empathize with others. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing! In fact, Gallup studied people leaders and found some of the best executives and people leaders aren’t very empathetic. They can’t easily perceive other people’s feelings and needs without a great deal of effort. What sets them apart? They still deeply care about their employees.

How to Show You Care

You don’t have to share others’ feelings to show you care. Invest time and effort in fostering relationships. Focus on three areas:

  • Individualize each employee’s development path, career goals, and engagement
  • Listen so your employees feel heard and know you understand what they bring to the table
  • See each employee’s strengths and make sure they can do what they do best every day

Caring relationships alter the employee experience for the better. Plus, when you care, you know how to best motivate your people. You can fight for what they need because you understand them. You can invest in their personal and professional success.

Caring Improves Performance

Gallup’s Q12 survey has “care” intertwined with seven questions. Some examples include “My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person” and “I have a best friend at work.” Employees who strongly agree with statements like these perform better.

It’s All About (The Right) Action

The real difference between empathy and care is action. Feeling what others feel and understanding them doesn’t always prompt action. When it does, sometimes it’s not always the right action. Toxic leaders use employees’ feelings to their own advantage. Extremely empathetic leaders get stuck in the emotions of others which hinders their ability to lead.

Train leaders to understand employees as individuals. Encourage leaders to not only care, but also demonstrate they care through actions. It’s one thing to tell your employees you care about them. It’s an entirely different thing for them to feel cared about. They won’t believe you unless they witness actions that confirm you care about them, their feelings, and their needs.