20 Great Ways to Show Empathy at Work

By: | Updated: October 05, 2022

You found our list of helpful ways to show empathy at work.

Ways to show empathy at work are ideas that can help workers perceive and relate to other team members’ emotions, thoughts, opinions, or experiences. Examples include supporting employees’ interests, practicing mindfulness, and communicating effectively. The purpose of these activities is to help workers establish genuine connections with each other and enhance work relationships and performance.

Empathy is an example of signs of a positive workplace , signs of a good manager, and important leadership skills. Practicing empathy can improve company culture. These ideas are similar to trust building activities.

This list includes:

  • benefits of empathy in the workplace
  • ways to show empathy to coworkers
  • ways to show empathy to clients
  • examples of showing empathy at work

Let’s get started!

List of ways to show empathy at work

One of the most essential workplace skills is the ability to establish empathy. By practicing empathy, the entire workforce can resolve conflicts, enhance productivity, and improve relations in the company. From identifying unconscious bias to regular check-ins and being authentic, here is a list of the best ways that team members can show empathy at work.

1. Involve Workers in Decision Making

If you do not seek your team’s opinion before making major decisions, then you may experience constant resistance from your workforce. Before making big departmental changes, get input from your team. Rather than just asking one question, seek to understand how actions can affect your workers’ life. For instance, when moving from remote to in-office work arrangements. Even if the company’s decision is final, you could offer incentives to ease your team’s worries about the changes in daily schedules. Involving workers creates an inclusive and empathetic culture in your organization.

2. Acknowledge Other Worker’s Perspectives

One major mistake managers make is placing too much emphasis on their perceptions and ignoring other team members’ opinions. If you are looking for ways to show empathy to coworkers, then learn to put yourself in each employee’s position before criticizing. Take into account each team member’s personal lived experiences. Also, learn to ask the right questions, listen, and acknowledge team members’ beliefs. However, be sure to be respectful when correcting your team members. Recognizing your team’s perspectives is essential when managing conflicts, solving problems, and driving innovation.

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3. Watch Out for Signs of Burnout

Work burnout is a serious problem that affects many workers. As an empathetic manager, you should recognize burnout among your team members. For instance, your team may find it challenging to have a balance between work and home life. As a result, some workers may take on more work than they can handle and work longer hours than usual. You could evaluate each individual’s work schedule and gauge how your team handles their current work. If you find that some employees have a heavy work overload, then devise ways to ease the burden. Companies may delegate some of the employees’ duties or offer paid time off. Failure to recognize signs of burnout among your team may result in employee disengagement or high turnover.

4. Support Employees’ Interests

One of the best ways to show empathy at work is by supporting the interests of your team both in the office and outside the workplace. As a senior leader, you could work towards understanding each team member’s unique goals, needs, and dreams and devise ways to show support. For instance, if you have philanthropic workers on your team, then rallying your workforce to support a worthy cause is a fantastic way to show empathy. Businesses with workers who participate in competitive sporting activities could attend the event. A simple congratulatory message also goes a long way in reinforcing the culture of empathy in your workforce. Matching the tasks of each team member to their interests will contribute to employee satisfaction and boost work performance.

5. Use Meaningful Phrases

Your choice of words can ultimately change the intended message, especially when acknowledging other parties’ emotions. For instance, workers may be unsure about ways to show empathy to clients even after listening and understanding an impending problem. You could encourage your team to take a perspective-talking approach which means that team members recognize the other parties’ emotions.

Here are some empathetic customer service phrases:

  • I can relate to what you are going through
  • I appreciate your patience
  • I am happy to help you find a solution
  • I understand your frustration
  • I am sorry to hear about your experience
  • I can see why this is a problem

For face-to-face conversations with customers, do not forget to use non-verbal cues. For instance, have a positive posture, smile, nod, and maintain eye contact. While you may not solve every client’s problem, you can improve customer service by using an empathetic approach. Showing empathy to clients is an excellent strategy that businesses can use to humanize their brand.

6. Identify Unconscious Bias

It may be the norm for workers to have different biases and prejudices. However, without identifying your own bias and unlearning, you are prone to react impulsively. Recognizing your own bias starts by understanding that your perspectives and experiences with other workers may differ. Hence, during a crisis, you will shift your perception and have a positive outcome. In addition, recognizing your bias will redirect how you handle each work situation and ultimately create an empathetic culture.

7. Communicate Effectively

Even with empathetic work culture, the lack of healthy communication skills can deter workers from seeing other team members’ perspectives. To reap the benefits of empathy in the workplace, start by teaching and encouraging each employee to communicate effectively. For instance, your workforce could learn to be active listeners and watch for non-verbal communication cues. Teams should be keen on cues like gestures, facial expressions, posture, touch, eye contact, and tone of voice. Also, you can encourage face-to-face conversations as opposed to calls when possible. Effective communication will also help workers to avoid assumptions and judgments about other employees and situations.

Here is a list of books about communication.

8. Steer Away from Unsolicited Advice

Offering unsolicited advice will only push your team from sharing their problems. Even when workers open up, you do not always have to provide the solution unless a team member has turned to you for guidance. Rather than jumping in on the problem, you could offer a listening ear and understand the issue at hand. You may mean well, but your employee may not appreciate unsought counsel. A good habit is to ask qualifying questions rather than giving orders or instructions.

9. Acknowledge Worker’s Feelings

You may often experience instances where you disagree with other workers’ decisions and beliefs. However, acknowledging your employees’ feelings will create an empathetic culture. Rather than using phrases like ‘you will get through it’ when things do not go as planned, reassure your team with words like ‘I am sorry, and I understand how that feels.’ Emotional validation will also help your team members to regulate their emotions and reduce the chances of workplace aggression.

10. Provide Physical and Emotional Comfort

While empathy relies on intellectual and emotional understanding between participants, physical and emotional comfort can also be powerful emphatic tools. For instance, a hug or a simple pat on the back can communicate shared emotions. You could teach your workforce to use appropriate human touch to support or encourage a team member. Appropriate emotional and physical comfort are ways to show empathy to coworkers that can improve an employee’s mental headspace and foster an empathetic culture.

11. Open Up About Similar Experiences

Opening up about your experience is one of the most effective ways to show empathy at work. You could encourage senior company leaders to show vulnerability and share their worries with the team. Workers will be empathetic and open up to each other about their problems. Talking about a similarly tricky experience can also help an employee learn handy tips on navigating the situation. Workers will also view the experience from a different perspective. However, be careful not to talk about yourself, especially when an employee is seeking advice.

12. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness, the act of attentively focusing on the present moment, is a critical element in creating an empathetic work culture. Workers who practice mindfulness have fewer chances of snapping and overreacting to a situation as they are fully present in the work environment and with other employees. Mindfulness will also create positive changes in your team’s attitudes, health, and behaviors. You could motivate your workforce to practice mindfulness by encouraging meditation at work. Another excellent option is offering all workers free access to paid meditation apps like Headspace.

13. Help Workers with Personal Problems

While having clear lines between personal life and work is important, showing support towards your team’s problems is one of the best examples of showing empathy at work. One way that companies can help workers with their problems is by offering free access to therapy. You could also rally your workforce to support other workers when a team member is going through a crisis. For instance, you could have a company culture where each employee contributes when a worker is going through a crisis like losing a loved one.

If you want to encourage workers to be transparent about their personal problems, then keep open lines of communication. Be sure to maintain a safe space where workers share sensitive issues. Also, encourage all team members to sustain their professional responsibilities when dealing with personal problems.

14. Build Customized Work Plans for All Workers

While every company expects the best from its workforce, accepting your team’s shortcomings may be the way to increase efficiency in workers’ vital areas. Rather than making your team feel inadequate for their weak areas, you could focus on each employee’s strengths. If you want your workforce to learn a seemingly difficult skill, then we advise that you encourage participants but do not dwell on the shortcomings. You could also invest in your team’s professional development by offering free access to learning avenues and mentorship opportunities. Workers who can be their authentic selves will get a sense of belonging and foster essential qualities of an efficient and high-performance team.

15. Be Authentic and Transparent

Authenticity is a crucial way to show your workers empathy. While discussing successes in your career is a great motivator, mentioning failures is a fantastic learning point for your workforce. You could encourage your workforce to steer away from the highlight mentality by leading in transparency. Be sure to share your own vulnerabilities that you experience when navigating your career. Being authentic and transparent at work will validate your team’s fears and struggles. In turn, employees will learn to be emphatic with workers who experience personal and work challenges.

16. Reinforce an Attitude of Gratitude

Reinforcing a culture of gratitude is a clever way to show your workforce sincere empathy. Starting the day by thanking the employee who grabs your coffee mug or the worker who holds the door for you will create a positive working environment. You could encourage all workers to show gratitude for small and significant actions. Through a positive gratitude culture, your company will enjoy massive benefits of empathy in the workplace as you get a happier workforce.

Here are fun gratitude activities for work.

17. Work Actively with Your Team

You may not recognize your team’s daily struggles if you do not actively work together. For instance, if you work in a different office space, then you could schedule one day to work with your employees in their location. Alternatively, senior workers could get more empathy from junior workers by offering junior workers a manager’s workday experience. Working actively with your team will create a different perspective and foster an empathetic work culture.

18. Ask How You Can Help

If you notice that another employee is going through a difficult phase, then asking them how you can help is key to assuring team members of your support. For instance, you could have an employee struggling with the commute to work, having difficulties connecting with other workers, or struggling with substance abuse. Simple words like ‘I am just a call away if you need help’ will make your team feel that your organization cares about its workforce.

19. Focus on Team Building Activities

A great relationship between workers is key to fostering an empathetic workforce. Team building activities enable workers to build deeper connections and learn about one another better. Fun team building activities like happy hours are great examples of showing empathy at work while fostering team bonding. You can also include activities in your team building sessions that will foster workplace empathy. For instance, you could teach your workforce better communication skills by playing a listening game. In this activity, let participants pair up and allow one worker to speak for one minute. The other partner will replay the team members’ words and explain what they take from the one-minute conversation. Team building activities will strengthen workplace relations and encourage empathy.

Check out this list of fun team building games.

20. Check-in regularly

The more positive interactions between managers and junior workers you have, the more chances you have at teaching your team ways to show empathy at work. You could start by removing barriers between senior managers and junior workers. For instance, making yourself unavailable for calls and forcing workers to wait for meetings via email may not effectively remove workplace barriers. A simple check-in, such as asking employees how they are doing and listening objectively, may be the key to fostering an empathetic culture. You may find that you have workers who may be more reluctant to open up.

Here are conversation starters that will get employees to open up:

  • Are you on track with the Monday deadline?
  • Tell me more about your suggestions on the project.
  • What can we do differently next time?
  • Where can other team players offer help?
  • What questions do you have about this project?
  • What else can we do to support you?

Frequent check-ins will offer workers essential support to be productive and provide coaching. Depending on the needs of your workforce and company culture, you could schedule weekly departmental check-ins.

Here is a list of more check-in questions.


Companies must reinforce an empathetic work culture with the constant life and work stressors. Treating your team with understanding and respect is an effortless way to boost your workers’ morale for work. Empathetic work culture also ensures that workers can provide each other with proactive support. However, an influential empathy culture requires the input of all stakeholders, including the employer, senior workers, and junior employees.

Next, check out ways to improve workplace cooperation and diversity and inclusion activities.

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FAQ: Ways to show empathy at work

Here are answers to common questions about ways to show empathy at work

What are ways to show empathy at work?

The ability of workers to recognize each other’s emotions, viewpoints, and feelings allows team members to establish genuine connections and improve work performance. Some ways to show empathy at work include involving workers in decision-making, holding regular team building activities, and helping workers with personal problems.

How can you be more empathetic in the workplace?

Showing empathy is one of the most critical soft skills that a company should reinforce. You can be more empathetic in the workplace by building customized work plans for your team, acknowledging workers’ feelings, and supporting employees’ interests.

What are the benefits of being more empathetic at work?

Workplace empathy plays a significant role in the success of an entity. With an empathy culture, employees learn to build leadership skills, improve the work environment, build social skills, and strengthen work relationships. Showing empathy at work also improves employees’ satisfaction with their work and helps companies retain and attract top talent.

However, reinforcing empathy in your company may not be an overnight success. Some team members may be naturally more empathetic than others. Therefore, we advise that you start at the top of the organization and teach an empathetic culture from day one.
Remember, the most sincere expression of empathy is through action. Once you listen and acknowledge your team’s worries, the next step is actively responding and addressing their issues.

Author avatar


People & Culture Director at teambuilding.com.
Grace is the Director of People & Culture at teambuilding.com. She studied Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Information Science at East China Normal University and earned an MBA at Washington State University.


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