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Utilizing empathic leadership and establishing connections helps your business and improves the lives of those in your workplace. Evidence of that is clear, and it’s a legitimate way to solve the “Great Resignation.”

While the world continues to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers are wrestling with the “Great Resignation.”

The hardships of the past few years ­— of which many are still enduring — have caused thousands of employees to reconsider their value at their respective occupations and search for something better.

While the usual suspects like low pay, lack of advancement and toxic cultures commonly push people away, this exodus of workers suggests a cultural reset is in play.

What can industry leaders do to create environments that ensure high retention amongst their employees and expand their workforce during this time of change and inflation?

One recent study suggests not only should the concept of empathy (the ability to perceive and relate to the thoughts, emotions or experiences of others) be an aspect of the workplace — it should be regarded as a foundational tenet leaders should foster toward their team members.

Catalyst, a global nonprofit, surveyed 900 U.S. employees across multiple industries to understand the effects empathic leadership had on their experiences at work.

Catalyst surveyors found the following key results on the benefits of empathy in leadership:

  • Empathy is a force for productivity, life-work integration, and positive work experiences.
  • Empathy boosts productivity.
  • Employees with empathic managers and leaders are more innovative and engaged in their work than employees with less empathic managers and leaders.
  • Women of color experience less burnout when they have more empathic senior leaders.
  • Empathic leaders respect employee life circumstances and support both life and work needs.
  • Empathic leaders foster inclusion.
  • Senior leader empathy is linked to reduced intent to leave.

Perhaps most strikingly, the study found 76% of people who experienced empathy from their leaders reported they were engaged with their jobs compared to just 32% of people who said they were engaged while experiencing lower levels of empathy.

Also, when people felt their leaders were more empathetic, 86% said they were able to navigate the demands of their work and life. That number dropped to 60% of those who said they perceived less empathy from their leaders.

So, what does empathy really look like if it is so beneficial?

Tracy Brower of Forbes Magazine says industry leaders best showcase empathy when they express their concerns and inquire about challenges directly, and then listen to employees’ responses.

“Leaders don’t have to be experts in mental health in order to demonstrate they care and are paying attention,” said Brower. “It’s enough to check in, ask questions and take cues from the employee about how much they want to share.”

Leaders know taking action is necessary for success. The same can be said for fostering empathy. It takes effort to connect with your employees and show them you care about their well-being.

To be clear, there is an important difference between empathy and sympathy which are often confused for one another. Sympathy is feeling compassion or pity for someone else. Empathy is the act of figuratively putting yourself in the shoes of someone else.

Both are important and often go together. However, empathy is going the “extra mile” in making lasting connections amongst your team.

Connecting with others is a complicated and sometimes even messy process. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to showcase to your employees you care about them.

Leading weekly group sessions where everyone talks about their lives outside of work is one way to establish a caring environment. Make it a priority to meet with individuals one-on-one to discuss their feelings and pay attention to their body language and attitude. If something feels off — say something.

Why Empathic Leadership is Here to Stay

Everyone is attempting to navigate a near post-pandemic world. Two years of struggle forced us to concentrate on the things that really matter. For many, that includes answering the contemplative question of, “Am I really happy?”

People are seeking those answers now while they return to their normal routines. Our culture will not be the same after the devastation left behind by COVID-19. As leaders in the industry, you can help be part of the recovery process.

Utilizing empathic leadership and establishing connections helps your business and improves the lives of those in your workplace. Evidence of that is clear, and it’s a legitimate way to solve the “Great Resignation.”

But now that perspective employees know what they deserve, they will continue to ask for nothing less. It’s past time to reset the standard and be part of the solution.

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John Reecer

John Reecer is an assistant editor at Peake Media.

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