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5 Ways Leaders Can Use Empathy to Increase Employee Job Satisfaction

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5 Ways Leaders Can Use Empathy to Increase Employee Job Satisfaction

As many workplaces struggle to retain and hire employees during the “Great Resignation,” leaders don’t have time to feel sorry for themselves. But it may be time for more of them to feel empathy toward their workers.

Ernst & Young’s 2021 Empathy in Business Survey showed around 50% of employees quit a previous job because their boss wasn’t empathetic to their struggles at work or in their personal lives. On the other hand, nearly 90% of workers who were queried believe empathetic leadership creates loyalty, and 85% say that it increases productivity.

Empathetic leadership is a must in today’s COVID-affected workplace, as employees struggle with burnout, working from home and other issues, according to research by Catalyst, a nonprofit that works to advance women in leadership positions. But until more business owners, executives and managers put a priority on listening to their employees and showing them they care, workers will look for companies that are more tuned in to their concerns, says Kathleen Quinn Votaw, the author of DARE to CARE IN THE WORKPLACE: A Guide to the New Way We Work.

“Most people do not know how to truly understand someone else’s point of view without letting their own thoughts, opinions, and emotions get in the way,” Quinn Votaw says. “Leaders often sit in their own place of judgment rather than using empathy as the bridge to understanding and connection.”

Quinn Votaw says that while empathy has gained importance in the work culture in recent years, many managers aren’t prepared for that role.

“Leading with empathy means understanding and accepting that people are not always operating at their very best,” she says. “Issues from home affect work lives. Working within and around that reality is the best way to create a place where people want to come to work.”

Quinn Votaw offers these tips on how leaders can lead with empathy and enhance the employee experience:

Be authentic. “Like actors in a Shakespearian play, we play roles versus showing up authentically,” Quinn Votaw says. “We have been taught to hide our true selves and display a false sense of bravado. To lead with empathy, get beyond the facade we all walk around with. Go the extra step – with your willingness to dig deep in terms of caring and asking questions that convey your interest in them as people.”

Communicate with a personal touch. A leader who consistently communicates with a personal touch for a variety of reasons – praise for the employee, concern and support for them – builds morale and increases retention, Quinn Votaw says. “The more personal they are, the more appreciated they are by the employees.”

Make space for connection. Quinn Votaw says leaders need to respect how their employees need personal connections with each other, and also says leaders should personally connect with employees once or twice a week outside of regular meetings. “Make time for more social and genuine connections in virtual meetings,” she says. “Have fun with virtual coffee chats, happy hours, trivia contests, or scavenger hunts.”

Provide remote workers with the tech support they need. ”There’s a growing economic inequality crisis with remote workers not having money for or access to technology,” Quinn Votaw says. “No one wants to lose out on high-quality talent because they lack funds for high-speed internet or a computer. Create a program to provide office equipment for your employees so they can have a functional setup in their personal space.”

Respect the boundaries of work and home life. Working in a remote environment has thrown off a lot of employees. “It was easy to have barriers and work/life balance when we commuted,” Quinn Votaw says. “Leaders can help  employees create a home space where they can turn work on and off, which boosts productivity, enhances connection and creates a healthier work/life balance.”

“Empathy is not about you, the leader,” she says. “It’s about taking time to listen, putting yourself in someone else’s place, and providing what they need in that moment.”


Kathleen Quinn Votaw ( is the CEO of TalenTrust, a strategic recruiting and human capital consulting firm. She is the author of DARE to CARE IN THE WORKPLACE: A Guide to the New Way We Work. Regarded as a key disruptor in her industry, Quinn Votaw has helped thousands of companies across multiple industries develop purpose-based, inclusive communities that inspire employees to come to work. Her company has been recognized in the Inc. 5000.


Covid-19 and the Future of Cultural Changes

Success in the post-COVID world can be more effective when executives manifest themselves as change agents who reshape, and in some cases, manipulate corporate culture to better apply knowledge and create competitive advantage.

Building on the three aspects of corporate culture (collaboration, trust, and learning), companies can attempt to continuously innovate and create new and valuable services or products by applying new ideas and knowledge. This article is set in place to inspire executives to create effective cultural changes in order to meet and exceed the challenges of not only today but also what we see as the onset of new advances in the future. The practices mentioned in this article can represent a complete answer to the need for cultural changes in today’s global market environment.

What Corporate Culture Is

Corporate culture is reflected in shared assumptions, symbols, beliefs, values, and norms that specify how employees understand problems and appropriately react to them. Executives today are focusing on company culture. They can build an effective corporate culture to improve customer satisfaction through acquiring additional knowledge from customers, developing better relationships with them, and providing a higher quality of service for them. Company performance is determined through various aspects, such as customer satisfaction. And executives can positively affect company performance through increased customer satisfaction. Company performance is what every executive is concerned about. Thus, there is a global need to cultivate a strong corporate culture to accomplish sustainable competitiveness in global markets. This strong corporate culture includes the three aspects of collaboration, trust, and learning.

How Corporate Culture Works

These three cultural aspects play a critical role in improving innovation and enhancing the effectiveness of organizational knowledge management. For example, collaboration provides a shared understanding of the current issues and problems among employees, which helps to generate new ideas within organizations. Trust towards their leader’s decisions is also a necessary precursor to create new knowledge and improve company performance through increased quality of products and services. Moreover, the amount of time spent learning is positively related to the amount of knowledge gained, shared, and implemented, aiming at breaking through performance gaps in corporations.

Executives are highly involved in cultural change initiatives and, in particular, by creating more effective workplaces, developing people, and shifting organizations toward the creation of new services and products. Knowledge, in itself, is a by-product of culture, and culture’s role in guiding and facilitating people’s actions is the key to executive decision-making. Through an effective company culture, executives can contribute to new products and services to meet dynamic market needs, through higher expectations and stimulation for new and strategic opportunities to meet the expectations of strategic goals and the needs of customers in the marketplace. Executives can build this such company culture to serve the customer needs and become more profitable.

By influencing behavior and providing valuable resources, executives can change the culture of an organization. This new focus helps the organization develop a unique culture that is hard for the competition to duplicate. Executives can act as change agents who provide a more humanistic and applicable approach to create a great company culture. For example, executives can facilitate collaboration by developing relationships in organizations. An executive can contribute to the cultural aspect of trust by considering both employee’s individual interests and the company’s essential needs. Executives can also identify the individual needs of employees and develop a learning culture to generate new knowledge and share it with others. The next section particularly presents a set of actions that can be taken by executives to build an effective corporate culture within corporations.

How to Do It Right

Building a True Collaboration Culture

To build a collaboration culture, executives need to improve the degree to which employees actively support and provide significant contributions to each other in their work. In doing this, executives can take the following actions:

-Develop a collaborative work climate in which employees are satisfied by the degree of collaboration between departments

-Develop a collaborative work climate in which employees are supportive.

-Employees are helpful.

-Develop a collaborative work climate in which there is a willingness to accept responsibility for failure.

Creating a No-Fail Trust Culture

To create a trust culture, executives need to maintain the volume of reciprocal faith in terms of behaviors and intentions. In doing this, executives can take the following actions:

-Build an atmosphere of trust and openness in which employees are generally trustworthy.

-Build an atmosphere of trust and openness in which employees have reciprocal faith in other members’ intentions and behaviors.

-Build an atmosphere of trust and openness in which employees have reciprocal faith in others’ ability.

-Build an atmosphere of trust and openness in which employees have reciprocal faith in others’ behaviors to work toward organizational goals.

-Build an atmosphere of trust and openness in which employees have reciprocal faith in others’ decision towards organizational interests than individual interests.

-Build an atmosphere of trust and openness in which employees have relationships based on reciprocal faith.

Cultivating a Successful Learning Culture

To foster a learning culture, executives need to enhance the extent to which learning is motivated within the workplace. In doing this, executives can take the following actions:

-Develop a learning workplace in which various formal training programs are provided to improve the performance of duties.

-Develop a learning workplace in which opportunities are provided for informal individual development other than formal training such as work assignments and job rotation.

-Develop a learning workplace in which there is an encouragement to attend external seminars, symposia, etc.

-Develop a learning workplace in which various social mechanisms such as clubs and community gatherings are provided.

-Develop a learning workplace in which employees are satisfied by the contents of job training or self-development programs.

In Conclusion

Now that we have identified that company culture has risen to a phenomenon that is worth understanding, learning, and using in organizations around the world.  This introduces a new and dynamic perspective of organizational culture and suggests that corporate culture constitutes the foundation of a supportive workplace to improve knowledge management performance. I indicate that corporate culture is a major internal resource for knowledge management success. Without a grasp on these two tenets executives are bound to fail in the post-COVID world.