Cultivating a Culture of Empathy

Team IIBP Anveshan, Business Psychology, Corporate Social Responsibility, Emotional Intelligence, Employee wellbeing, Issue 42, Organizational Culture, Volume 4

Discover the untapped power within your company: its people.”

From a Darwinian perspective, survival of the fittest in the workplace looks like how rapidly and efficiently employees adapt to its changing environment. This adaptation ensures the functioning of the company in an ever-changing, complex business environment. One of the elements crucial to the adaption are healthy interpersonal relationships between the employees.

They are at the heart of any organization considering how it fulfills the objectives of an organization. Positive communication and interpersonal relationships lead to improved morale of the employees, cultivating an environment of creativity and better communication, thus leading to increased productivity and better conflict resolution, thus fulfilling the ultimate goal of the business organization, that is- success.

“Success rarely comes from the individual, and even if that were the case, a success that cannot be shared often takes on the flavor of a bitter defeat”. -Dale Carnegie When we talk about an individual and remove him from his designation or role as an employee, we are essentially talking about a ‘human being’ and his needs of belongingness and love as stated in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Adopting a more humanistic approach towards seeing the ‘humans’ in your organization will far more benefit than solely relying on the adoption of a complex, new world business model. At its core, human beings crave emotional connection and belongingness and they crave these psychological needs at a workplace considering how much time they tend to spend with their co-workers, subordinates and superiors.

Understanding the depth of these psychological needs and perceiving an individual as a human first and an employee second will be helpful in the recognition of individual potential as well as the potential of the entire team when the company is successfully able to foster healthy interpersonal relationships within. In order to enhance interpersonal relationships within the workplace and foster the well-being of an individual, here are key practices that an organization should adopt.

  • Organizational Practices and Procedures: Promoting an organizational climate of interactional justice through fair and respectful communication among employees fosters positive interpersonal relationships. Leaders who encourage a shared identity and interdependence among employees minimize perceived differences, laying a stronger foundation for positive interactions at work.
  • Socialization practices: Socialization practices, such as pairing new employees with mentors, help teach appropriate interaction norms, facilitating positive interactions. Research indicates that mentored employees have better organizational socialization and work outcomes compared to non-mentored counterparts (Chao, Walz, & Gardner, 1992).

Relational leadership: Dutton (2003) contends that a leader’s relational attentiveness, or their ability to perceive and respond to an employee’s emotional state, fosters positive interactions by aiding employees in sustaining and repairing interpersonal connections. Cornelis, Van Hiel, and De Cremer (2006) discovered that leaders’ procedural fairness correlates with relationships with both the leader and other organizational members.

  • Transformational leadership: A type of leadership that intellectually stimulates and inspires followers (Bass & Riggio, 2006) – is associated with a number of prosocial behaviors. Transformational leaders encourage the development of trust among team members (Arnold, Barling, & Kelloway, 2001), and greater levels of team cohesion (Sparks & Schenk, 2001) and friendliness (Krishnan, 2004)
  • Effective relational coordination (Gittell, 2003): Gittell (2003) posits that effective relational coordination is achieved through high-quality communication and relationships. This entails frequent, timely, and accurate communication focused on problem-solving rather than blame or avoidance. Leaders should emphasize shared goals and the sharing of task knowledge to foster these relationships.

“Outside the nuclear family it is employment that provides for most people social context and demonstrates in daily experience that ‘no [person] is an island entire of itself’, and that the purposes of a collectivity transcend the purposes of an individual” (Jahoda, 1982, p. 24)