How can managers build empathy on their teams?

How can managers build empathy on their teams? Well, you may not need to walk a mile in your employee’s shoes, but you should at least understand the person filling those shoes. And one of the most important things all managers need to recognize today is the level of stress workers are under and its impact on their mental health.

The silent killers

Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder—these conditions were taboos in the post World War II workplace. The social stigma was too oppressive and the risk of unemployment too severe, so people suffered in silent agony. 

Of course, that kind of lost productivity can take a heavy toll on the economy. It did back then and it still does today. Recently Mental Health America [MHA] estimated that “workplace mental health problems result in as much as 500 billion dollars of lost productivity annually.”

Desperate times 

A recent report in Time Magazine shared the alarming news that depression is the fastest growing health condition among Millennials who were born between 1981 and 1995. And in a recent survey, 75 percent of Gen-Zers [born between 1996 and 2012] claimed mental health problems compelled them to leave their jobs.

Higher living costs, crippling student loan debts, terrorism, the states of both the national and the global economies, and the devastation caused by dramatic climate changes. These are psychological burdens Millennials and Gen-Zers struggle with at a much higher level than any other generation in America.

Desperate measures

And at work, they’re faced with multigenerational cultural clashes that compound the stress.  Because they are now the biggest demographic groups in the American workplace, employers have been forced to face these mental health issues head-on.

According to the Time article: “In the competition for valued employees, companies now see mental-health fluency as crucial. Beyond baseline coverage, global firms like Bank of America, KKR, Booz Allen Hamilton and Unilever are offering innovative solutions, from training employees to spot signs of depression in one another to fostering a less hierarchical vibe. ‘Workplace culture has really changed from the baby-boomer generation,’ says Kelly Greenwood, CEO of Mind Share Partners, which she founded after a leave of absence from a past job because of anxiety. ‘You’re supposed to be ‘on’ 24/7 and responsive to your company in a way that never existed in previous generations. The experience of being in a junior role now is much different from what it used to be.’”

An invaluable tool

How can managers build empathy on their teams? One important step is to help build relationships among team members and DiSC personality profile training can make taking that first step a lot easier.

Empathy means having the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings. It’s hard to empathize with someone when you just don’t get how they tick—which can eventually tick you off!

DiSC is an acronym for the 4 personality types we all exhibit in some measure—Dominance. Influential. Supportive or Steadiness. Conscientious.

Understanding the underpinning personality type of a colleague can make their behavior easier to understand and accept—and that’s the first step toward empathy. You may not like their behavior, but you can finally understand why they act the way they do. 

When the buck stops here

They say that it’s lonely at the top, but today’s managers can’t afford isolation. They’ve got to wear too many hats for that. Facilitator. Mentor. Profit maker. Motivator. Peacemaker. Building empathy requires building relationships with employees.

DiSC personality training is both a doorway and a bridge. It can open the door to understanding a worker better and bridge the gap in relationship building. DiSC can help managers select the leadership style and behavioral approach to fit a worker’s personality type.

Time Magazine reports some very encouraging news: “More than 200 companies—including Unilever, Starbucks and Zappos—have used Mental Health First Aid at Work, a four to eight-hour in-person course that teaches people how to talk to struggling colleagues and where to refer them.” Imagine how successful these peer-counselors would be if their efforts were undergirded by DiSC personality training.

How can managers build empathy on their teams? DiSC!

Today the stigma and shame of emotional and mental illness have been discarded. And people can reach out for help without fear of rejection or termination at work. Tools like DiSC can accelerate healing, improve production, and make the workplace culture healthy, vibrant, and profitable.