Empathy in the workplace – Building Trust – Workplace empathy

Great leaders know that building trust and empathy are keys to creating an aligned culture built to perform in any situation. That said, reward, recognition, and respect are key building blocks in building a high performance culture.


Empathy by definition is –

“The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”

As a leader it is important to recognize that every person is different. While it may be very convenient to believe everyone ‘feels’ the same, common sense tells us that is not the case. Taking to time to connect at an individual level – defines the difference between good and great leadership.


An organization pulled together to meet customer orders. The task at hand required everyone to give more than normal to accomplish the goal. In recognition, of the successful task – it was suggested that an employee breakfast was in order. McDonald’s became the restaurant of choice – especially with their low cost breakfast items. For a mere $40 the whole plant could fed breakfast burritos. It was great idea and certainly a way share appreciation for a job well done.


Proud to recognize the team, the supervisor went to the floor to take orders and found that only about half of the people on the floor had any interest in breakfast burritos. Executing this recognition strategy meant that 50% of the shop floor would receive nothing at all but likely appreciated the offer.


Empathy is not a one size fits all approach. It is about individual connection. Realizing that only half of the shop floor would participate, the supervisor changed the strategy and created an opportunity to connect to the shop floor. Sincere in objective, the supervisor took individual orders and got 99% participation. (The other 1% were on a low carb diet). The total bill was just under $90.


This example epitomizes the reality of the work environment. Everyone has individualized desires and needs. Failing to recognize that will cost critical participation in future business objectives. By simply asking and taking the time to connect, the recognition for a job well done – became far more meaningful with negligible added expense. With business strategies, take whatever time is need to connect with employees to understand individual thoughts and concerns. Learn to actively listen and create an environment for creative dialog. Work with your teams to build solutions together.