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Employer Branding

Workplace Lessons from The Office - Empathy

Employees come to the office in a different mood every day, and their contributions to in-office communication may vary based on their moods. Being empathetic allows an individual to understand how others feel and why they might act a certain way. However, this skill has been overlooked as a performance indicator for HR managers and those undertaking a role centered on employee management or growth.

A recent study focusing on empathetic leadership in the UK has stated that 58% of employees would consider resigning if the company leaders are not empathetic. The same research also states that 69% of the employees believe that their personal happiness and well-being at work are linked to the company’s leadership style. 

Such figures highlight the importance of an empathetic atmosphere in the workplace. Empathy in the workplace is about creating an ambiance in which professionals can understand each other's emotional state of being. Such an understanding allows employees to develop true and valuable connections, leading to increased collaboration and performance. 

Some basic ways of being empathetic at the workplace include considering others’ stress, understanding what’s important to them, and offering help if possible. 

Importance of Empathetic Leadership 

Empathetic leadership is based on leading with an understanding of everyone’s perspective. Empathetic leaders are genuinely interested and aware of the motivations and aspirations of their employees. This allows organisational leaders to develop long-term relations with their employees and set objectives accordingly. 

During the first few minutes of Season 2, Episode 7, Michael tells Pam, Ryan, Pete and the others to take off an hour early because he won’t be available for the rest of the day. He’s then seen explaining that productivity declines in the office when he’s not around. Learning of this, it’s evident that Michael is a leader who’s aware of his staff's behaviour and makes decisions according to their likes and dislikes. 

When leaders within an organisation make decisions based on their staff’s opinions and preferences, everyone feels that their perspective is valued. Such practices increase employees' respect and commitment to the organisation. 

It’s The Small Things That Matter

Empathy in the workplace goes beyond asking other employees about their day or how they feel. It’s about genuinely caring for others and considering the smallest things. 

For example, the opening scenes of Season 2, Episode 7 of The Office show Ryan bringing Michael’s jeans to the office and Pam Beesly putting the jeans in a drawer. The episode then transitions to a solo clip of Pam where she mentions that Michael loves his jeans, and that’s why he has implemented a casual dressing policy on Fridays. Although this is just a small act, it shows how genuinely the employees in the organisation care for each other. 

Such attitudes towards each other increase individuals' trust in their colleagues. This lays the groundwork for effective communication. Employees tend to open up about their weaknesses to their supervisors when such trust is developed. This allows the supervisors to help the employee develop a skill set that benefits their careers and the organisation. 

Don’t Be An Invasive Salesman

Traditional push marketing efforts that invade the customers' privacy only tend to drive them away. Regardless of the industry, your customer or clients need to feel that their concerns are important to you. Your clients need to have an emotional connection with you before you make a sales pitch. 

During the episode, Michael and Jan can be seen meeting with a client. Where Jan is concerned about acquiring data from the client, Michael focuses on small talk and engagement to build a lasting relationship with the client. The episode shows Jan’s displeasure over Michael’s behaviour, but she’s left in shock when the client agrees to what Michael has to offer. 

Marketing and Sales professionals need to ensure that they do their research on their clients so they can engage in a conversation with them and develop a lasting relationship. They must establish trust and rapport with the client before making a sales pitch. 

When acquiring and retaining clients or customers, it’s important to understand that one loyal customer is worth more than a thousand newly acquired customers. Organisations must train their marketing and sales teams to build brand loyalty instead of increasing customer acquisition. 

Small Talk and Increased Collaboration 

Human resources professionals can ensure an empathetic organisational culture by allowing casual conversations and encouraging them. Brief, casual conversations about things other than work allow employees to feel more at home in the office. They also provide a much-needed sigh of relief every now and then. 

Office small-talk is not something that requires you to amend organisational policies and should be encouraged. However, it’s important to understand that some employees may not be as comfortable with casual conversations as others.  

In Season 2, Episode 7 of The Office, Pam, Pete, and the others can be seen casually talking about their worst first date experience. Despite everyone else's participation, Dwight can be seen shying away from the conversation. 

Being able to have a casual conversation at work allows individuals to develop strong professional relationships, which then result in increased collaboration. Small talk is a great way to break down communication barriers because most individuals feel more comfortable discussing general topics than personal ones. 

Although small talk can be about anything generally, it's best to start and stay on neutral topics simply because certain topics might be offensive to employees from diverse backgrounds. 

Workplace Empathy in a Nutshell 

Today, Leaders need to centre every aspect of their businesses around empathetic practices. These practices go beyond just asking others about how they are and develop long-term professional relationships within the workplace. Implementing an empathetic mindset in businesses allows them to have employees who’re not just waiting for the day to end but are dedicated and committed to their jobs and others around them.

As a result of empathetic practices, marketing and sales teams can truly understand the needs of their customers and provide solutions for them. Lastly, an empathetic ambience in the workplace allows employees to believe that the organisation values their perspectives and opinions because this increases employee dedication and commitment. 




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