- Attrition and anxiety are the two prevailing trends of the current phase of the pandemic, according to a June 21 report from benefits technology firm Businessolver, yet the company said it has observed a decline in the level of empathy employees perceive among employers.
- Specifically, Businessolver found that 69% of employees said their organizations were empathetic, down from 72% in 2021. This perception particularly extended to CEOs, with fewer workers stating that the CEO played the most important role in building workplace empathy; instead, many said they look to direct managers to meet that need. Additionally, while 69% of CEOs surveyed by Businessolver said they believed it was their job to build empathy, 79% struggled to be empathetic and 77% were worried that they would lose respect if they were too empathetic.
- The report outlined a number of strategies for building empathy, including empowering and training managers; offering flexible work; and offering benefits that address workers’ mental health challenges. Mental health may be key, as two-thirds of surveyed employees said they believed that employers viewed those with mental health issues as either “weak” or “a burden.”
The report’s findings may represent a discouraging trend, especially given that Businessolver’s 2021 survey found that the pandemic had actually increased employees’ perception of employers’ empathy.
Since that time, however, a number of developments have combined to create a tough environment for workers. For instance, staffing shortages caused by voluntary attrition in the form of early retirements, job hopping and other factors led to burnout among workers who remained at their jobs. A recent survey of front-line employees by vendor SafetyCulture found that 40% of respondents said communications from management were “out of touch,” while 30% said internal communications got in the way of performing their jobs.
Amid this tension, some — including one speaker at the recent Society for Human Resource Management annual conference — have called on HR teams to take stock of the degree to which empathy guides workplace policies. Executives who previously spoke to HR Dive emphasized the importance of encouraging employees to practice gratitude regularly and to assume positive intent during internal conversations.
Diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives also might prove key to restoring empathy at work; 76% of employees, HR professionals and CEOs in the 2022 Businessolver survey said that DEI programs and initiatives encouraged empathy in the workplace. When it comes to DEI, though, Businessolver said employers “must go beyond awareness and visibility” of initiatives “and start showing real results.”