Why leaders’ empathy is vital to morale and retention

When people feel unappreciated, they leave. Empathy results from listening intently to your employees and responding accordingly. Here’s what you, as a boss, should know.

Empathy is more than just a feeling; it’s a professional asset.

According to recent studies conducted by Development Dimensions International, empathy is today’s top leadership attribute.

“Being able to listen and respond with empathy is overwhelmingly the one interaction skill that outshines all other skills,” says Richard S. Wellins, DDI senior vice president.

Dianne Crampton at Gonzaga University concurs: “Empathy is a universal team value that promotes high commitment and cooperation in the workplace. Becoming aware of the importance of their leaders developing empathy, companies are responding with sending their leaders to empathy training.”

According to a Wall Street Journal report , 20 percent of employers now offer empathy training, a substantial increase from 10 years prior.

Here are five reasons why empathy is a vital leadership trait:

1. Increased employee retention. Every organization struggles to retain talented staff. One major reason that people leave an organization is lack of trust in and appreciation from their supervisor. Empathy increases trust and the sense that managers value and care about the staff. Whether in our personal relationships or as part of an organization, we are more likely to stick around when we feel heard and appreciated.

2. Increase in staff engagement. When leaders show they care about employees, reciprocity kicks in. At successful organizations, leaders continually find ways to notice, compliment and show their appreciation to the staff.

3. Increased collaboration among team members. Employees who feel valued and appreciated want to do more in their work—and do more for their co-workers. When leaders demonstrate empathy, it passes throughout the organization, resulting in an increase in teamwork and decreases in staff conflict and workplace disruptions. The resulting collaboration leads to increased productivity.

4. Increase in job satisfaction and decrease in absenteeism. Staffers who feel appreciated are more satisfied and miss fewer workdays. As satisfaction decreases, absenteeism rises. Increased absenteeism saps morale, as co-workers picking up the slack become resentful, resulting in a downward spiral.

5. Increase in bringing up new Ideas and creativity. People who feel heard and appreciated tend to risk more and look for ways to add value, coming up with new ideas and methods to improve their own work and move the organization forward. They see their own success and that of the organization as interrelated, boosting their desire to find better, more work processes.

Increased empathy promotes employees’ well-being, commitment and motivation, increasing the organization’s efficiency, productivity and success. Top executives must realize that greater leader empathy is not simply a soft skill, but rather an essential tool for keeping their organization competitive and successful.

Harvey Deutschendorf is an emotional intelligence expert, author and speaker. A version of this post first appeared on Business 2 Community.


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