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Empathy: The Key to Retention

What one person says and another understands are two different things. The leader who can appreciate those differences demonstrates empathy.

Empathy is being aware of another person's feelings and emotions, and showing concern for their experiences. Empathy is not the same as sympathy. Sympathy is feeling sorrow or pity for someone who has experienced some hardship. You feel sorrow for them and you can relate because you've had that experience. For example, if someone tells you that their mom or dad died, and you've experienced great loss yourself, then you can relate based on your shared experience - that's empathy. Both empathy and sympathy are genuine, but the difference is based on similar personal experiences.

EY conducted a study of more than 1000 workers in the US and found that 52% of respondents feel their company’s efforts to be empathetic towards employees are not genuine or dishonest.

This could be because of a disconnect between what they say and how they're saying it. Which again brings me back to "what one person says and another understands are two different things."

With the vast experiences of people, there's no way that you can relate to everyone at the same level, but you can show empathy by tapping into a few communication tools.

First, make time for conversations. Leaders are often pushed for time. They're rushing from meeting to meeting, reviewing sales and production reports and analyzing data. There are always competing responsibilities, but employees are a priority. So you may have to put off writing a report to schedule time to speak with them.

Secondly, listen attentively. Stop what you're doing and listen. If you're meeting with staff in person, turn away from your computer and look at them when they are speaking. This is a way of acknowledging that what they have to say is important.

Third, let them know that you've heard them. Ask them how you can help improve the situation or make things more manageable at work for them. A previous study by EY reported that 87 percent of workers said that empathy leads to better leadership.

Simply put, showing that they care about what people are going through personally or professionally can be a major factor in companies retaining staff, building a loyal customer base, and building a supportive community who want to see the organization win. When staff employees feel heard and supported they do a better job.

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