Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, hearing with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another. It is a natural instinct of a person to share joy, grief, concern and other such complex human emotions. According to me, the essence of empathy lies in the instinct of one's reaction to characteristic human emotions".
HR Professionals are believed to be too concerned with corporate policies to actually get down to problem solving in the real sense. This public perception of HR people and the familiar grumblings is one of the primary reasons that employees tend to dislike HR people and believe that they are not on their side.
As the former US President Barack Obama often iterated, “Empathy is the quality of character that can change the world." The first person that you need to confront or have a heart to heart conversation is with yourself. Think of your most recent professional conversation with an employee — were you empathetic? Your answer will surprise if not shock you. Now, instead of putting them in their place, put yourself in their place. And reflect on their actions. That is empathy.
Here are a few points that every HR professional ought to inculcate in their lives...
- Lend the employee your ear: If you expect to be the communicator of companies’ policies and needs, you must first be an empathetic listener. This will help you deal with the situation presented in front of you in a better manner.
- Get rid of distractions and devices: Mobile phones, computer, laptop and any electronic devices need to go! Your teammate should understand that he/she is important enough to be heard. Active listening is the key to empathy.
- Validate employee feelings: Listen, ask questions at times, and repeat it back to them. The employee should know that he has been heard.
- Ensure clear takeaways: Summarizing the discussion determining follow ups, sharing employee concerns and planning to course correct, reflecting and reconvening is mandatory.
- Be a dedicated police officer: A police officer’s job is not pleasant but the officer’s existence in itself brings law and order. You know you need to be the person course correcting employees while still being their champion like the humble cop. When people break rules, perform badly or do not stick to company policy, you need to still have that empathy quotient in place and stick to your stand at the same time. Admitted, it is not easy. But whoever said Human Resources was an easy job!
Also, while communicating bad news, always ensure the following…
- Disciplinary action should come after deliberation. It is important for your teammate to understand that the decision is ‘fair’. When they understand the process, the chances of accepting the outcome rises substantially.
- Be clear in your communication yet ensure that they understand you are hearing them. Be calm, more available and reasonable to the employees.
- Ensure that the employee understands that you are available to talk and support them after a ‘bad news session’. This goes a long way in increasing morale and retaining the best.
The Ritz-Carlton’s Motto sums up what I am emphasizing in this piece: “We are serving Ladies and Gentlemen” (all of Humankind in the gender-neutral and inclusive world that we currently live in). Need I say more?