97% of CEOs say all levels of their organisation are empathic. 

Only 69% of employees agree. 

This is a 28% empathy gap – the disconnect between employees and those in leadership or management positions, where leaders and managers fail to understand, perceive, or appreciate the feelings, perspectives and needs of their team members. 

The 2023 State of Workplace Empathy report gives insight into this: “The gaps in perceptions that this year’s empathy findings reveal should be a wake-up call for leaders to check their perceived realities against the workplace realities of their employees.”   

The reality is unsettling, team members are feeling the lack of empathy in the workplace, and this is having damaging consequences to their wellbeing and to the achievements of the business. 

The report continues: 

“Employee perceptions of empathy in the workplace are at an all-time low. In 2018, 78% of employees thought they worked in an empathic workplace; this has dropped to 66% in 2023.” 

And, 

“There’s a large gap between how CEOs perceive reality versus how employees do. While 67% of CEOs see themselves as more empathetic than they were before the pandemic, only 59% of employees would agree—a 10% drop from last year.” 

 

What can an empathy gap lead to?  

Employee disengagement and low morale – when employees feel misunderstood or undervalued their engagement and productivity can suffer.  

High turnover – a lack of empathy can lead to employees seeking alternative workplaces where they will feel valued and heard. 

Poor team dynamics – an empathy gap can cause misunderstandings and conflicts within teams.  

Innovation stagnation – empathy boosts creativity and innovation; without it organisations may fail to be creative and adapt to a changing landscape. 

Customer dissatisfaction – a lack of understanding of customer needs can lead to dissatisfaction and loss of business. 

 

The impact of the empathy gap can have far-reaching and detrimental effects on the business both the internal functions and its external interactions. These effects may take some time to emerge, and its likely evidence of these effects won’t be seen all at once.  

An empathy gap can become significant and take a long time to bridge, however, it is possible.   

 

How can managers, leaders and organisations bridge the empathy gap? 

👂Listen: Listen to understand not to hear. Really listening takes focus and time so give employees the time they need to talk. 

💬Respond: Know that it’s OK not to say anything. Take your time and choose your responses questions and suggestions carefully. 

💡Perspective: Seek to understand and to see things from an objective third party perspective without judgement or making assumptions. 

🤝Inclusion: An inclusive workplace culture where diverse perspectives are considered and valued can help bridge the empathy gap.  

Check your unconscious bias: Be aware of your differences with the other person to be sure a difference in age, gender and culture isn’t affecting how you see the situation. 

Be curious: Ask questions to really understand what is happening and to be sure you haven’t made any assumptions. 

 

Bridging the empathy gap in business is crucial for creating a collaborative and productive working environment. 

When employees feel cared for, listened to, and appreciated they feel encouraged, more confident, and willing to put in the extra effort. 

If you’re looking to bridge an empathy gap in your team or organisation, check out our eLearning course, Empathy: see it their way. 

Amber Orchard-Webb

Amber Orchard-Webb

Learning Specialist and e-Learning Developer at The Motivation Agency

Inspired by an early career as Skills and Development Advisor for Costa Coffee, I moved agency side to the role of Learning Specialist. I bring positivity, passion and a fresh perspective, to deliver the very best learning solutions to our clients.