Leadership & Organisations

How to Display Empathy without Loss of Performance

Many executives believe they must choose between addressing staff needs and producing outcomes. These are not mutually exclusive, but achieving both objectives sustainably needs careful navigation.

WD-40 Corporation does not have any teams. There are instead tribes. Members of the tribe watch out for one another, have a sense of belonging, and share the company’s values and mission. Compassion is at the center of the work culture at the maker of consumer goods, which aspires to build a community of highly engaged individuals who give their all every day.

Garry Ridge, chairman and former CEO, thinks that when employees are cared for, they produce exceptional achievements. He emphasizes that caring is not synonymous with coddling, and that this compassionate approach creates business outcomes, develops superior goods, and helps shareholders.

When Ridge became CEO of WD-40 Corporation in 1997, employee involvement was about fifty percent, the company had a market capitalization of $250 million, and it was predominantly a domestic US firm. Ridge said in a LinkedIn post that by 2020, the company had turned into a worldwide corporation with a market capitalization of more than US$2.5 billion and a 93% employee engagement rating.

The success of WD-40 demonstrates that compassion is not antagonistic to corporate results. In fact, the assumption that leaders and organizations cannot be both compassionate and high-performing is a false dichotomy.

Investing in employees generates long-term profits.

Not only has the Covid-19 epidemic intensified the difficulties of living and working in the contemporary world, but there is also an increasing need for more empathetic leadership. People increasingly seek professions that will offer them a feeling of purpose and belonging, and they want to be treated with deference and courtesy on the job. They desire leaders who listen to them and care about them, as well as those who perceive them as people and not only as workhorses.

How to Display Empathy without Loss of Performance
Display Empathy with Staffs

Some CEOs may experience a tug-of-war between the urge from the ground to demonstrate compassion and the pressure from the top to produce outcomes. They may also have to battle with coworkers and superiors who remain skeptical of the premise that compassion is a road to efficiency and profit.

Even if executives agree that a healthy and happy workforce can fuel business success, they may nevertheless undervalue employees, especially when faced with short-term goals. It would be shortsighted of them to do so.

A compassionate workplace does not require the compromise of results. Investing in employee wellness is not an indication of inadequate leadership or a drain on resources; it pays off in the long term. When employees feel appreciated, they are more engaged and perform better, resulting in measurable business results such as increased productivity, competitiveness, and profitability. In addition, lower burnout and turnover rates have a positive effect on the bottom line.

Gallup noted in its most recent State of the Global Workplace study that business units with engaged employees enjoy 23 percent greater earnings, decreased absenteeism, turnover, and accidents, and more customer loyalty.

It makes good financial sense to enhance employee well-being at work.

Keys to being courteous and successful

Many executives believe they must choose between caring for their staff and achieving outcomes because they find it difficult to do both. In a recent global poll of 300 top business leaders from industries such as hospitality, automotive, and biotechnology, 61 percent of respondents stated they struggle to combine employees’ need for assistance with their company’s demand for high performance.

Compassion and performance are not contradictory by definition, but sustaining both needs work and careful management. Four options are available for organizations to meet competing demands:

1.Data: Truly get to know your staff

Gather statistics on the difficulties faced by workers. Ask specific questions such as, “What change at work would have the greatest influence on your happiness?” Conversations with workers one-on-one are a great way to engage with people, but because they take so much time, they should be combined with other approaches like as surveys and town halls.

2.Prioritization: Prioritize compassion

Managers require time for compassion. Leaders must evaluate which tasks are essential to performance and eliminate those that do not provide value.

3. Set-up: Establish a comfortable space

Establish a setting where employees may voice their concerns without fear of seeming incompetent or uncooperative. Stress that the trade-off between well-being and performance is a false issue. Provide psychological safety so that individuals can speak openly about their need for assistance and leaders may discuss performance demands with candor.

4.Collaboration: co-developing solutions

Managers and workers should collaborate to enhance employee engagement and well-being. Leaders must establish effective communication channels that foster open conversation and be sensitive to their followers’ demands. The frontline workforce should be provided with self-help tools.

Read more: How to Change Someone’s Opinion

Managers’ guide on avoiding burnout

Our global work and research indicate that middle managers feel the conflict between the need to generate outcomes and the call for more compassion the most strongly. People may reduce their burden by taking the following measures:

  • Enhance the “compassion capacity” of top leaders. Use data to “inform” them what issues frontline staff face and how they effect your organization. Then “demonstrate” the problems: Introduce them to employees so they may develop more empathy and more effective solutions.
  • Assist top executives in redefining compassion as a business necessity. Make it clear that developing a caring work environment will not sacrifice performance results.
  • Provide juniors with facts and assist them in constructing a network of emotional support to assist them in managing their own health. According to research, employees are more engaged and driven when they have a sense of purpose. Educate frontline employees about the market pressures their organization confronts and how their job contributes to achieving corporate objectives.
How to Display Empathy without Loss of Performance
Show Empathy

Don’t increase pressure points

Caring for employees does not include yielding to all of their demands or decreasing performance requirements. Yet for compassion to be offered in a sustainable and fulfilling manner, all organizational levels must contribute.

Top executives should practice what they preach and avoid making compassionate leadership a new performance goal, which can place additional burden on already overworked managers. It can also backfire, becoming employee wellness promotion theatrical rather than genuine.

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