Empathy for the Person Not Just the Employee

Empathy for the Person Not Just the Employee

It is easy to have empathy for our employees and the struggles they face at work, but do you also practice empathy for the individual person?

An employee’s happiness and satisfaction at work aren’t tied just to the internal factors of the workplace, they are also a product of external factors that originate in the employee’s personal life.

Our employees are whole people, not just one-dimensional beings. And while we can’t control what happens outside the workplace we none the less need to be aware of anything that is going on in an employees personal life that is impacting their work life in a negative manner.

Our concern also needs to be about the person, not just about the effect that the problems are causing on their work performance.

Empathy has to come from a genuine place of concern. It can’t be manufactured or superficial.

So what can a manager or supervisor do for an employee that is having issues outside the workplace?

To start with you can listen. Just be available to understand their problems and offer a sympathetic ear.

A word of caution on this though – even though you want to be empathetic you cannot solve their problems. You also cannot be their counselor, spiritual advisor, or psychiatrist.

Make sure that you establish clear boundaries. You don’t want to take on their problems or allow their personal issues to be an excuse for poor work performance.

Second, you can reach out to your human resources department to see if there are any employee assistance programs (EAP) that can offer counseling service that might be of benefit to the employee.

Smart companies understand the impact personal issues can have on employees. These companies offer many employee assistance programs to help employees navigate difficulties in their personal lives. Often times these services are free to the employee and 100% confidential.

Managing people requires that we find ways for our employees to have good work/life balance. It means that we need to be aware of workplace stress as well as personal issues that are causing a loss in workplace satisfaction.

Even though we cannot resolve an employees personal problems, allowing ourselves to be personally consumed by them, we can offer empathy, compassion, and resources to help them deal with the issues in their own time and manner.

Our employee’s happiness may not be our responsibility but creating an atmosphere where it is more likely they will be happy is. And the best way to create that atmosphere is to practice empathy, to care about your people, and to be available when they need you.

For more on the personal side of management check out my other post The People Connections – Making for a Happy Workplace.



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