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Empathy: An Important Workplace Skill

I recently came across a LinkedIn poll on the necessity of empathy in the workplace, and it got me thinking about some of my encounters at work. I have had my fair share of experience working with excellent Team Leads, but one Team Lead in particular, will always have a special place in my heart. It took me a while to realize that the trait that distinguished her from all the other bosses I have worked with is EMPATHY. According to Alfred Alder, a renowned Psychiatrist, empathy is seeing through the eyes of another person, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another. This definition succinctly described my boss.

Empathy is the ability to put ourselves in other people’s shoes, understanding and being sensitive to their experiences and how they feel. In the workplace, empathy promotes unity, understanding and mutual respect, which is essential for teams and the workplace, and is also a vital skill needed for success. According to reports from Businessolver’s 2020 State of Workplace Empathy study, 76% of employees believe that when an organization is empathetic, it drives motivation among employees; also, 74% of employees attested that they would work longer hours for an empathetic organization. I could relate to this report because I realized that whilst I worked with my boss, I worked harder and smarter to excel; not because I was worried about my performance review, but because I was motivated, and I wanted to excel for the company to grow. The best part is that all my team members had a similar approach and mindset to work.

The report from Businessolver’s 2020 also touched on the roles of empathy in employee retention. According to their survey on Gen-Z employees, 83% of Gen-Z employees attested that they could leave their current job for a similar role with a more empathetic organization. Also, 83% would choose an empathetic organization over a less empathetic organization even at the risk of taking a pay cut, and 73% would not mind changing career paths or industry if they have the opportunity to work with an empathetic organization. These statistics show how a lack of empathy in an organization could result in the loss of talents as more employees become aware of the correlation between workplace empathy, better working environment and good work-life balance. 

It is easy to talk about the necessity of empathy in the workplace, but it is more important to ensure that empathy becomes common practice at work. As much as we cannot trivialize the role of personality traits and upbringing in empathy, I also believe that it takes a level of intentionality to be empathetic. Empathy, as with all other social skills, can be learnt and built over time. 

In my opinion, empathy is the future of work, a social skill that can help us form deeper connections in the workplace, make the workplace a safe environment and aid productivity both in the workplace and in our personal lives. Companies should take actionable steps to teach empathy and its role in workplace success and ensure that all employees take responsibility by being intentional about being empathetic.


About the Author

Ifeoluwa Oyelade is a Clinical Research Associate at Reliance Clinical Limited by day and a 'healthy living advocate' at all times. She is the creator of Health and Wellness joint on Instagram, where she enlightens her followers on healthy living practices to live a wholesome life. She enjoys Yoga and watching movies.


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