This isn’t a statistic that I’m happy to report. This year, 52% of employees surveyed by EY perceive corporate attempts at empathy to be inauthentic.
And that’s up from 46% in 2021.
Empathy is a trait that plays into psychological safety in the workplace. “When it comes to safety, it’s personal,” says Monique Parker, senior vice president, safety, environment & health at Piedmont Lithium, in a recent EHS Today article. “When a person feels that they’re valued, that they’re heard, that they’re important, then they’re going to be willing to do those extra steps to make sure they’re safe and others around them are safe. But if they don’t feel valued, if they just feel like another number or another employee, then they aren’t going to be going the extra mile.”
So where is the disconnect as discovered in EY’s Empathy in Business report? Turns out the leadership isn’t walking the talk.
The report explained it this way. “This breakdown in trust happens when workers see empathy as a program being rolled out, and not a fundamental shift in behavior change from the CEO on down. To really make a change, organizations need to reward empathy as a management style — as much as productivity and profitability. Empathy must be embedded into every employee experience.
“Successful integrations require empathetic leaders who recognize and appreciate how their team members differ from one another, be it job function and location or learning styles. Should you communicate your M&A digitally or via in-person town halls? Should you present the information visually or verbally? Empathetic change management includes a concerted effort to bring everyone and their viewpoints and needs along with you. “
To help companies get a handle on this, the report offers three ways to create authentic empathy:
- Start by transforming yourself as the leader – Leading with empathy has to be mirrored from the top down. Emotional transformation is a perpetual journey. Constantly work on yourself to deeper your self-awareness so that you can manage your emotions and help your workforce navigate their emotions is paramount.
- Don’t wait for the “speak up” – Proactively create psychological safety by not just encouraging people to speak up but also by directly asking them to share their point of view. Listen intently instead of planning what you will say next; focus on the other person. Give space, and don’t interrupt.
- Understand the emotional aspect of change – Develop an understanding about the emotional toll brought on by change and transformation. Learn about emotional agility and how to improve it in times of change.
“Time of change” is certainly the best way to describe the landscape as employees worry about job security and the economy.