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5 Ways Leaders Can Use Empathy to Increase Employee Job Satisfaction


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.


3 Ways To Make Your Workplace More People-Friendly

The work dynamic in this generation has changed. In the past, people had a fierce dedication to their company. They were rewarded for their commitment to a company that took care of them forever.

Technology was born and it grew like a weed. Employers began using technology to replace people. When performed old-style, companies needed accounts payable and accounts payable teams. Now, computers prepare reports, forecast inventory, calculate commissions, and implement URL shortener to make your link easier to remember. This was good news for the companies, but not so great news for the employees.

What happened next

When technology entered the scene, it was more valuable than the CEOs and Business Owners understood. In their day a boss kept his finger on the pulse of every aspect of their company. But, the managers under them knew that technology would take companies to new heights. Further, they knew that refusing to get on board would be a costly mistake. As the older generation retired, new leaders threw open the door for technology and commerce jumped a couple of light-years ahead, tossing the employees into a tailspin.

Hit the brakes

The most amazing thing happened. The managers, now in control, found out what their predecessors knew. Your employees are the backbone of your business. They are the voice and the brand. While technology, like HR Payroll, allows businesses to do more with fewer people, they need to treat the people they have very well.

Collaborate with employees

These are the people on the front lines. They are the first smile your clients see and the first voice they hear. Let them have a voice and hear what they have to say. Maybe they can solve an issue or maybe you can enlighten them in things they may not understand.

Give them tools

Give them what they need to make their jobs easier, like online timesheets that will figure overtime and mandatory breaks, tracking purchases, and easy ways to keep up. While your employees are given the tools they need, you have the means to track their productivity. When experienced employees and good technology move in sync, productivity goes through the roof. If it doesn’t, something needs to be adjusted. If an employee is not doing a good job, speak to him, pray for him and if he doesn’t perform, get rid of him and cut your losses.

Focus on their health

Let them know they matter. Encourage employees to take their sick days or personal days when they are ill. Show them the same respect you expect when they have problems in their homes. Do not praise them for being there 60 hours per week. Praise them for doing their job in the 40-hour work week. Be there for them. Change is difficult in the workplace. When it is time to have the employees trained on using the new software, cross train the departments so everyone will understand how a problem in one department can mean a problem in several departments.

Final Thoughts

There are few things that will ruin morale in the office more than upper management forgetting who butters their bread. Employees are not part of the office furnishing, they are people, and they pour their energy into the business. Respect is a give and take proposition. Why invest years in teaching an employee their trade and then not taking advantage of their knowledge?

The future of commerce is bright. Businesses will use knowledge and technology so their employees can grow. Workplaces will care as much about their people as they do about their future. This will give corporations the best of business past and the power of business future.  Employees will once again become dedicated people who will pull together in lean times.


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