How Empathy Can Foster a Thriving Culture for Any Company

Two women talking

How Empathy Can Foster a Thriving Culture for Any Company

Posted 3/22/21

In a recent episode of “The Rookie” on ABC, a pearl of wisdom was shared that rhymes nicely with my own school of thought – “Empathy shouldn’t be a liability”.

It got me thinking because I often talk to my clients about the role of empathy and why empathy is the key ingredient to creating a thriving culture within a company.

And you’ll have to forgive me for blowing my own trumpet in this article, but I feel it’s important to explain a certain point for the sake of providing some context. With that said, I’d like to explain how and why empathy can foster a thriving company culture…

Why Empathy is so Important for Creating a Thriving Company Culture

According to a recent Gallup assessment, empathy is my number one strength and one which has served me well in recent years. I say this because I have always tried to deploy empathy as a consultant in order to create meaningful relationships and connections with clients and within the culture of their respective companies.

Let me explain this better from a fundamental point of view…

As with any type of society or community, empathy can help build and nurture a company culture. It’s true that empathy is not often talked about in this context but it’s important to know the significance of empathy, or lack thereof, in a workplace. Because without empathy, work colleagues have no motive to care for one another and no reason to make sacrifices for the sake of achieving a common goal. The presence of empathy has the opposite effect and encourages individuals to understand, while improving communication and productivity throughout a company.

Empathy is also a vulnerable choice but one that enables employers to connect with their employees in a more meaningful way and there are many studies back this up. For instance, mirror neurons are triggered when empathy is deployed. These neurons can help a person feel what other people might be experiencing, but without actually having the experience themselves. It’s a broad concept, of course, but this special attribute can help companies develop a better relationship with employees.

I also mentioned my recent Clifton Strength assessment on Gallup and this is something a company can also use to their advantage. “Clifton Strengths” refers to an assessment that shows the unique power of an individual. Research indicates that a person who can harness and deploy these strengths tends to be more productive, engaged and content in the workplace. Hence, these assessments are often used to inspire employees, leaders and even entire companies to improve performance.

Now, I’m only scratching the surface here, but I think you can understand why I always encourage employers to take a similar approach to company culture.

 Some Final Words on the Role of Empathy for Company Culture

According to Dr. Brene Brown, a world-renowned researcher at the University of Houston, vulnerability is at the heart of all human experiences. Further, vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but rather the very-birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging and empathy. This indicates how it takes vulnerability to be empathetic and while this might feel uncomfortable at first, it’s often the way to a wealth of opportunities.

As a consultant, I act on my own empathy as much as possible, and I also try to do this without expecting anything in return. I believe this helps me sleep at night, while bringing more meaning to my work as a consultant. But for some employers (and people in general), empathy is regarded as a type of soft skill and maybe even a “weak” alternative to demanding higher standards in the workplace. In other words, many folk still seem to think that showing empathy is something to fear or avoid.

Empathy is not a sign of weakness and feeling vulnerable is a risk we must take to experience meaningful relationships and true connection within a truly great company culture.