Turn on the news these days and it’s likely a depressing mix of stories about people not getting along—and that’s putting it mildly. We’re living in a highly charged political environment, and people are aggressively passionate about their opinions. Unfortunately, this can spill over into the workplace, creating a very uncomfortable—if not hostile—work environment. Not only are there legal implications that need to be taken into consideration, but there’s also the impact that political conflict in the workplace may have on company culture. One way to either diffuse difficult situations or to avoid them altogether is to increase empathy towards one another.
Empathy is typically defined as being able to understand someone else’s feelings, but for those who might feel uncomfortable dealing with emotions (their own or others’), it can be defined more simply as gaining an understanding of someone else’s point of view.
Empathy is an essential quality to have in the workplace, not only because having usually fosters better cooperation among employees, but also because it’s a quality that’s important for leaders to have. Here are a few ways to help your workers improve their own empathy, so that they can more constructively engage each other regardless of what’s happening outside the workplace.
Train Employees in Active Listening
Active listening is a skill that helps develop empathy. It entails more than just “hearing” what people say, but also understanding what they’re trying to say. It requires the listener to pay close attention to the speaker, perhaps closer than usual. While active listening isn’t a skill that comes naturally to everyone, it is something that can be learned. Taking the time and energy to train people on this skill will likely go a long way towards developing empathy among coworkers.
Train Employees How to Ask Questions
Being misunderstood or not listened to is one of the big motivation killers in the workplace. And this often happens because employees hear one thing from a coworker, but then assume what that employee is trying to say without delving in any deeper. To overcome this, employees must be shown not only how to talk and listen to each other, but how to ask each other questions. Typically speaking, the more thoughtful the question, the more likely it will elicit a constructive response, and that can bring people closer together as well as provide an opportunity for mutual understanding.
It might be surprising to learn that giving compliments also benefits the giver as well as the receiver. They demonstrate appreciation, which is something everyone wants from time to time. By building complimenting and celebrating coworkers into your company culture, you build a sense of positivity and teamwork, both of which contribute to empathy.
Offer a Platform for Communication
There’s an appropriate time and place for everything, including difficult discussions. Knowing when that time and place is can be tricky, though, especially when employees are feeling emotionally charged. That’s why it’s a good idea to provide a platform where employees can communicate with each other. What’s more, the platform can be a neutral place for exchange, where conversations can take place either ad hoc or at a set date and time.
If you’re looking for a platform that can do this (and more), Zenvoy’s got you covered. Zenvoy offers loads of community building tools that help employees both connect to each other, and build understanding for each other. Give it a try!