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Why Empathetic Leadership Is More Important Than Ever

Companies with engaged workers experience higher profit margins, see less absenteeism and turnover, and benefit from increased customer loyalty — all of which can be traced back to empathic leadership.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

Empathetic employee-first cultures have a competitive edge.

We have seen how companies with employee-first cultures have an edge when it comes to attracting, retaining, and engaging top-notch talent – no matter how rocky or stable the hiring market is. Not only do employees connect their values to their work, but the company also sees the bottom-line rewards. And this is backed up by multiple research studies. “Gallup’s research found that teams with engaged workers have a 23 percent higher profit margin, see less absenteeism, turnover, and accidents, and benefit from increased customer loyalty.

Empathetic leadership isn’t a new concept. Authors have written books on the topic. And while empathy has always been a critical skill for leaders, the pandemic-inspired shift in workplace culture is calling for increased compassion and kindness in the workplace. But it’s not all about feelings. Prioritizing empathetic leadership and action leads to better business and noticeable results.

So how can you, as an employee, do your best to make sure you’re happy at work? It’s not easy, but it’s possible. Make sure you’re working somewhere that aligns with your values. If your values are aligned with the work you’re doing, you’ll be able to cultivate a meaningful experience at work, which will directly correlate to your overall happiness with your job. But it’s not only up to you to figure that out. Leadership, as always, matters, and strong leadership clearly recognizes the current mental health crisis and need for empathy that most employees are facing right now. By taking employee happiness to heart, leaders can stop worrying about The Great Resignation and “quiet quitting” and instead focus on building back truly resilient – and genuinely happy – teams.

The effects go far beyond buzzy trending topics. “We spend between 85,000 to 115,000 hours of our lives at work,” Jon Clifton, Gallup CEO and author of “Blind Spot: The Global Rise of Unhappiness and How Leaders Missed It,” said. “If you’re miserable at work, it makes your life awful,” he added.

Conversations about mental health at work are prevalent as employees around the world attempt to go back to normal and companies figure out whether or not they want to ask workers to come back to the office. And mental health struggles must be met with empathy. In fact, empathy is the single most important leadership skill, according to recent research.

The effects of stress and burnout, for example, must be met with empathy for employees to work in an environment that is productive, receptive, and inspiring. Due to the Covid-19 crisis, a whopping 42 percent of people said they experienced a decline in their mental health during the pandemic, according to a global study by Qualtrics. Meanwhile, 67 percent of people are experiencing increased stress levels and 57 percent of people are experiencing more anxiety. These feelings translate to the workplace and call for empathetic leadership. When it comes to feelings on the job, 28 percent of people said they are having trouble concentrating and 20 percent admit that it is taking longer for them to finish tasks.

Focusing on employee development and paying attention to each individual – whether they’re a leader or not – within the company is crucial for success. That’s where empathy comes in.

“The pandemic has further opened our eyes to the importance of feeling valued and adding value as employees,” Sears said. If, as a company, you are invested in your employees, they become more invested in you. 

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Alexis Benveniste is a New York-based writer and editor whose work has been featured in The New York Times, Bloomberg, Vanity Fair, and other outlets.