“You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself.” – John Steinbeck
A couple of years ago I remember asking the CHRO of the company I employed at about what he thought was the most important characteristic an HR leader should possess. He was quick to reply- empathy. While I absolutely agreed with the answer, it took me some introspection to appreciate the significance of empathy as a whole and especially for women in the field of human resources.
Empathy, as a character trait, is seen in all the genders. However, over the years, various research papers like this one have established that women are in general more empathetic than men. This singular factor is a critical key that can differentiate the female population from their male counterparts when it comes to the corporate scenario. What’s more, it can also give women a competitive advantage as an HR leader if used correctly.
How to use empathy to be a better HR leader
It is not just enough to have empathy. Like any other skill, it must be honed properly and used in the right manner to achieve desirable results. Here are five ways in which you can incorporate this trait into your daily work as an HR and strive to become an effective leader.
Become an active listener
Being a good listener is a known job duty for any HR professional. But how many times do we really listen? As it is often said that most people listen to answer and not to understand.
Being empathetic can help you break this cycle and enable you to listen actively. People go to their HR team members with their problems because they want solutions. And lending an attentive ear to them is part of that solution.
Process what you hear and ask the right questions
What do you do with all that you hear from your employees? Take some time to reflect on what has been told to you and think of the right questions to ask. It is tedious to deal with all the employee grievances, but it is imperative that you are patient in the process.
Find the underlying cause
The previous couple of steps will help you get to the root cause of most employee issues. This is especially necessary in order to become a solution-centric leader. Everyone appreciates a person who is empathetic towards the difficulties faced by employees and strives to put forth constructive resolutions rather than ignore them.
Put yourself in others’ shoes
It goes without saying that empathy enables you to assess any situation from the point of view of the person who is at a disadvantage. Doing this is definitely not an easy task but it has an immensely positive impact. Putting yourself in other peoples’ shoes helps you to have a clarity that is otherwise not there. This shows a certain maturity in you as a leader which is possible by being empathetic.
Make it a conscious habit
Lastly and most importantly, using empathy correctly at your workplace isn’t something that can happen overnight. You will need to make a habit out of it through conscious and consistent efforts. Additionally, you have to be wary as to where you use it. In the effort to being an empathetic person, do not be overcome with the urge to help everybody. Understand where it is required the most and act accordingly.
The corporate sector isn’t an easy place if you want to thrive, especially as a woman. However, by doing things differently and sincerely, you can surely forge a path for yourself and empathy is one such character trait that can help put you in the legions of great HR leaders.
About the Author: Somrita Sen is an HR professional with a background in the technology industry. She has extensive experience in the fields of employee engagement, performance evaluation, and talent management processes. Currently, she works as a business writer for several HR companies. She also runs a personal blog, www.beingsen.com, where she writes about various workplace-related topics. You can visit her Linkedin profile at www.linkedin.com/in/somrita-sen