Communication - Do you understand the power of Empathy in the workplace?

Last updated by Chloe Lin [SSW] 5 months ago.See history

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand what they’re feeling. In a deeply technical profession like software engineering, it might not sound like a useful tool but nothing is further from the truth.

likability chart
Figure: Empathy is key to likability

Empathy for your clients or managers

By understanding your Product Owner’s goals, pressures, and feelings, you’ll be in a much better place to be able to anticipate their needs, understand their requirements, and communicate more effectively with them.

Empathy for your co-workers

The key understanding required to make people prioritise helping their co-workers, rather than focussing solely on their own work, is that the total output of the team is more important than the output of one person. You will also find that, if people enjoy working with you, and not just the outcomes you produce, you are more likely to be given opportunities in the future. The “brilliant asshole” can only get so far in their career before the pain of dealing with them outweighs the quality of their work.

Empathy for your subordinates

Taking some time to understand the challenges that your team members may be facing is key to becoming an effective servant-leader. Subordinates that work purely to avoid your disappointment will only do enough to avoid being in trouble. People who feel respected and heard are much more likely to go above and beyond. The other great benefit of understanding your team members is that you can identify how each person is motivated. One may thrive with words of encouragement, one may need help to get past a sticking point, and one may need space to get into the zone.

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