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Bridging the workplace empathy gap: 3 crucial action steps HR can take

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The importance of empathy in HR can’t be overstated. After all, people leaders need to understand their people to help them do their best work.

But workplace empathy can be a valuable – and sometimes essential – skill for any and all business leaders, not just HR. And now more than ever, employees rely on their employers to be empathetic amidst all the chaos going on in the world.

CEOs who lack workplace empathy can send a signal to employees that they’re not valued or heard. But a lack of empathy is exactly how HR and employees view CEOs, according to a new report from Businesssolver.

Why C-suite empathy is essential

Remote work has had a lot of positives on employees, but the incessant push from employers to return to the office shows that employers may not feel the same way. In fact, for leaders, remote work has given way to issues like proximity bias and productivity paranoia.

In a world where business leaders can’t keep a watchful eye on what employees are doing, CEOs need empathy to adapt and thrive in a world of flexible work. Plus, workplace empathy can help employees and leaders connect on a human level, which can create a sense of trust and help build strong relationships.

This change needs to start at the top, as high-level leaders will set the tone for the entire organization and help to create a culture of empathy.

The state of workplace empathy

As important as empathy is, Businesssolver’s report paints a bleak picture when it comes to workplace empathy from HR’s point of view. In fact, only 68% of HR professionals viewed their CEOs as empathetic – the lowest levels ever reported.

On the flip side, almost all of CEOs (92%) view their HR pros as empathetic, which is up 27 points from last year, showing a clear gap between the empathy levels of CEOs and HR pros.

HR pros perceive the overall workplace to be less empathetic, with the study finding that:

However, the report found that remote workers tended to have higher perceptions of empathy compared to those not working remotely, with 76% of remote workers viewing their organization as empathetic, compared to 67% of all employees.

Action steps HR can take to bridge the empathy disconnect

From managers to the C-suite, workplace empathy is a key leadership skill for anyone managing people. Apathetic leaders can make employees feel unheard and lead to high turnover rates and disengagement trends like quiet quitting. 

But all hope is not lost. Lower levels of workplace empathy could indicate that leaders are experiencing empathy fatigue or a more deep-rooted problem within the organization, but there are many ways to get back on track.

No matter what the issue is, here are some ways HR can help bridge the empathy gap and keep employees feeling motivated, satisfied and understood.

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