Scanning my newsfeed in the early hours means invariably reading about Trump’s latest mess up, and asides from the myriad things wrong with the man generally, there is one major thing wrong with his leadership skills: he completely lacks any empathy. He has been given the tools to run an immensely powerful country (God help us), but his outlook is so warped that he can’t look at the world through anyone’s eyes but his own. The definition of empathy can vary, but it differs from sympathy; you’re are more than just understanding of a situation, you can actually put yourself in someone’s shoes and imagine walking in them (Ironically, Trump doesn’t want to try anyone else’s on for size, but he insists that women wear specific shoes when working for him).
According to an article on Forbes, it’s this ability to empathise that is the key to a happier working life and a more civil society in general. Research from the Center for Creative Leadership analysed data from 6,731 managers from 38 countries and found that empathy is positively related to job performance. Managers who show more empathy toward are viewed as better performers by their bosses and Studies also find that displaying empathy at work creates “psychological safety”— the most essential ingredient of highly effective teams, according to a two-year Google study. It’s all down to cultivating a culture where employees don’t just care what their workers think; they care how they feel as well.
And it’s the workplace that distinctly lacks empathy. A recent study by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) shows that, last year, four in five managers witnessed some form of gender discrimination or bias in their workplace, i.e., the vast majority. More than two-thirds of managers (69%) said they saw women struggling to make their views heard in meetings, emphasising that most are clearly not emphatic when they witness women struggling to be heard in the workforce – managers aren’t looking at situations through their eyes.
And yet, cultivating empathy is what Apple deem their “secret weapon” to ensuring that their workers stay happy. The key, as with most things in life, is a healthy balance. Research on “generosity burnout,” drawn from Grant’s book Give and Take, depicts three kinds of employees found in organisations — givers, matchers, and takers. It’s the first kind — the generous and empathetic “giver” who comes out on top. Givers are more successful and add more value to a company. But they are also at the most risk for burnout as they can over-stretch their limits.
Happier working situations mean that your employees work in a place infused with more trust and belonging and the key to making this happen comes down to understanding their behaviours equally – regardless of gender – and making that extra effort to see their world with a different set of eyes.