By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: . You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

4 Ways to Build Empathy in the Workplace: Show Notes & Transcript

Post | Dec 06, 2022

Welcome back to Marketing Smarts! From brand-building and marketing veterans Anne Candido and April Martini (that’s us) comes a podcast committed to cutting through all the confusing marketing BS so you can actually understand how to take action and change your business today. We deep-dive into topics most would gloss-over, infusing real-world examples from our combined 35+ years of corporate and agency experience. We tell it how it is so whether you are just starting out or have been in business awhile, you have the Marketing Smarts to immediately impact your business.

This is Episode #138 and we’re talking building empathy in the workplace. Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and your other favorite podcast spots – follow and leave a 5-star review if you’re exercising your Marketing Smarts!

  • Episode Summary & Player
  • Show Notes
  • Marketing Smarts Summary
  • Transcript

Marketing Smarts Episode #138: 4 Ways to Build Empathy in the Workplace

Empathy fuels relationships. But it can be a tricky thing in the office. How do you build empathy in the workplace? It comes down to active listening, seeking to know your staff on a personal level, respecting your employees by having the tough conversations, and making changes once you have feedback. You might also run into some hurdles with empathy, including team members who are not naturally empathetic, companies that don’t value soft skills, and even being accused of being “too soft” yourself. This is an area we’re super passionate about and have loads of experience in from a variety of different workplaces. Let’s build some empathy. This episode covers everything from active listening to tough conversations. Here’s a small sample of what you will hear in this episode:

  • How do you build empathy in the workplace?
  • What if a person is not naturally empathetic?
  • How does empathy compare to sympathy?
  • Is it possible to build empathy?
  • What can you do if your company doesn’t value soft skills?
  • How do you toughen up if you’re “too soft?”
  • Why is active listening so important?
  • How do you create loyalty among your team?

And as always, if you need help in building your Marketing Smarts, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at:

Check out the episode, show notes, and transcript below:

Show Notes

  • 4 Ways to Build Empathy in the Workplace
    • [0:00] Welcome to Marketing Smarts
    • [0:30] Anne Candido, April Martini
    • [0:33] Learn more at
    • [0:42] How do you build empathy in the workplace?
    • [1:16] How does empathy compare to sympathy?
    • [2:12] Listen first, speak second
    • [2:20] Active Listening
    • [8:00] Seek to know your staff on a personal level
    • [8:15] Introverted
    • [8:20] Pandemic
    • [10:56] Clients
    • [12:08] StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Gallup
    • [14:01] Respect your employees by having the tough conversations
    • [18:11] Think Again by Adam Grant
    • [20:32] Ask for feedback and mean it. Then do something about it
    • [23:36] Personal Brand
    • [25:43] Anxiety
    • [28:18] Recap: How do you build empathy in the workplace?
    • [28:51] Marketing Smarts is sponsored by Scott Mautz is a popular keynote speaker and #1 bestselling author whose latest book and talk Leading from the Middle helps middle managers dramatically increase their influence up, down, and across their organization. Want your company’s middle managers and leaders equipped to foster a high-performing organization? Want them inspired to drive the change and transformation that’s a challenging necessity moving forward? Go to to check out Leading from the Middle and all of Scott’s keynotes, trainings, courses, and books
    • In-the-Trenches
    • [29:46] What if a person is not naturally empathetic? Do you really believe it is possible to build it?
    • [34:54] Adam Grant, Tony Robbins
    • [36:19] My company does not seem to value soft skills and we are just all about performance. What can I do about this?
    • [37:39] COVID-19
    • [42:24] I have been accused of being “too soft.” How do I toughen up?
    • Marketing Smarts Moments
    • [50:19] Logan Mitchell Hines, Mitchell’s Salon & Day Spa
    • [51:54] CEO (Chief Executive Officer)
    • [55:49] Recap: How do you build empathy in the workplace?
    • [56:18] Make sure to follow Marketing Smarts on your favorite podcast spot and leave us a 5-star review on Apple Podcasts
    • [56:28] Learn more at and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn
    • [56:32] Sign up to view all the ForthRight worksheets & tips for FREE!
    • [56:39] Shop our Virtual Consultancy

What is Marketing Smarts?

From brand-building and marketing veterans Anne Candido and April Martini comes a podcast committed to cutting through all the confusing marketing BS so you can actually understand how to take action and change your business today. They deep-dive into topics most would gloss-over, infusing real-world examples from their combined 35+ years of corporate and agency experience. They tell it how it is so whether you are just starting out or have been in business awhile, you have the Marketing Smarts to immediately impact your business.

How do I exercise my Marketing Smarts?

Thanks for listening to Marketing Smarts. Get in touch here to become a savvier marketer. 


Please note: this transcript is not 100% accurate.

Anne Candido 0:02
This is Marketing Smarts – a podcast committed to helping you become a savvier marketing leader, no matter your level. In each episode, we will dive into a relevant topic or challenge that marketing leaders are currently facing. We will also give you practical tools and applications that will help you put what you learn into practice today. And if you missed anything, don’t worry, we put worksheets on our website that summarize the key points. Now, let’s get to it.

April Martini 0:29
Welcome to Marketing Smarts.

Anne Candido 0:31
I am Anne Candido.

April Martini 0:32
And I am April Martini. And today we’re going to talk about a topic that’s come up in various ways and has also been a topic of conversation for a while now, which is why we’re choosing to discuss it. And that is how to build empathy in the workplace, it can be a really tricky balance of how to ensure your employees feel heard and seen on a human level. But on the other side, also uphold the fact that this is a workplace. And we’ll get into all of that further here in a bit.

Anne Candido 1:00
Yeah, and as we like to do when especially we’re talking about these topics, is just to put a little bit of definition out there. So we can all make sure we’re on the same page. And we’re all talking about the same thing. So when we talk about empathy, we’re talking about the ability to sense other people’s emotions and imagining what someone else might be thinking or feeling, or in essence, being able to put yourself in their shoes. Yes. And see it from their point of view. This is different from sympathy, which is feeling sorry for someone and feeling relief that it’s not you, which is probably the best definition. I saw that. Yeah. So it’s very forthright. Yeah, it’s definitely very forthright. So I, the way that I kind of drilled us down to it empathy, fuels, relationships, and sympathy fuels cards in a mentality that will pass. All right, isn’t that right, we’re

April Martini 1:45
starting out hot.

Anne Candido 1:48
I think it’s really important to make that distinction, right? Yeah,

April Martini 1:51
no, but I mean, I do think that it is a really good qualifier. Because those two words do get used interchangeably. And you’re right, they absolutely do not mean the same thing. So today, we are talking about empathy, and very specifically how to build empathy in the workplace. So number one, listen, first speak. Second, a term that is often thrown out and associated with this is active listening. And this really goes back to making sure your people feel seen and heard on that human level that I mentioned before. I think too often, especially as bosses or managers, we think we have to have all the answers or jump in and try to, quote unquote, fix things for our people. When really in many cases, it might just take a pause, hear them out, and we can get to a far better place more quickly. Because I think if we come from an empathetic place, we should think that they want to express themselves and that that may be all that’s needed, in some certain situations. So how do you do this? Well, first zip it literally, stop talking, don’t speak until the person is finished speaking. But also, as they’re talking, that active listening is showing that you’re hearing what they are saying, you’re not just letting them speak and waiting for your turn. So it’s, you know, everything from affirmations like hmm, or nodding your head, making eye contact, not letting yourself be distracted by what else is going on outside the office, which was always my favorite agencies, because all the doors are clear. And inevitably, I would be sitting on the side where I could see everything. So speaking from experience, just make sure you’re respecting people again, on that human level and hearing them out for what they have to say. And do not get in that bad habit of pre empting. Or looking like, you’re going to literally jump out of your seat because you already know what you want to say, which shows them you’re not hearing anything that has come after since you formulated whatever thought in your head. And I used to have this boss who was just notoriously terrible at this, and it came from a place of insecurity. But I would be able to literally see him here the first I don’t know, maybe sentence of what I said. And then already he’s doing all the things I said, the opposite of what I said to write looking off, twitching bouncing his knee, I mean, you could just see that he was waiting. And as soon as I finished in the best case, or sometimes even before I could get the last few words out, he was jumping in to give me his perspective on what was going on, right, which is not empathetic. It’s not taking into consideration my feelings. And I would end up feeling frustrated. And then also like nothing had been solved by having the conversation. Whereas on the other side, I had a different boss, who actually still to this day I’m super close with and she’s one of the most empathetic people I’ve ever met in my life. But when I would come to her with stuff, she would listen very quietly and calmly and then asked me what I thought we should do or what did I need? Or what did help look like all of those kinds of phrases that show that you’re empathizing with where that person is. So just a couple of examples there to show you what to do and also on the other side, what not to do and speaking from our experience.

Anne Candido 5:00
Yeah, I think those are all really good. And I was definitely gonna highlight the How can I help is probably the best question that you can ask. I will also add another distracting thing that makes sure that the person who is talking to you know that you’re not listening is when you start like playing with your phone or checking an email or checking a text. When you’re having these conversations, you absolutely have to put everything aside, if you know the conversations going to get a little heavy, you can say I can sense that this conversation is going to take some time, let me just clear my schedule or Yep, you know, if I could be totally honest, we can definitely start this conversation. I only have 15 minutes. And then I’ll definitely set up some time we can finish the conversation, you have to gauge what the urgency is in the conversation. Yep, in order to do the right thing. But try to get out of your mind that your net, the next important thing on your calendar is the next important thing, right? Yeah, that doesn’t mean that you have to like blow up your whole day for these conversations, especially if it’s a kind of repeat offender, if you will. But it is important to really take into consideration what is needed for that person at that time and plan accordingly. And I’d also say as you’re having a conversation with them, and you’re reacting to what they’re saying, and you’re trying to share from your own point of view, try not to make it about you. Yes, right. Very true. Something that came up a lot when I would try to share what was going on with myself to one of my bosses or managers or coaches. And, you know, they would say, oh, I can do better than that. Let me tell you what happened to me, right? Or is one upping Yeah, becomes the one upping or like, what whatever you’re going through isn’t nearly as bad as what they’re going through or to get over it. Because what you’re going through is really insignificant compared to what they’ve gone through, or somebody else has gone through. It’s like, everybody’s reality is their reality. And it’s not up to us to judge the severity of that reality. So try to hold that back. Because the judgment is the number one thing that’s going to kill all empathy. Remember, empathy is about putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes, or understanding that their shoes may be different than your shoes. And definitely share be vulnerable in those cases, if you think is going to add some context or some help, but don’t make it about your troubles or somebody else’s troubles or worse than theirs, or their issues or challenges are worse than they’re so

April Martini 7:26
well. And I think we do that a lot of times with positive intent. Not all right, and not all bosses, but we’re trying to be relatable in those instances. But I think keeping that definition in mind, and realizing that nothing about this conversation is about you at this point in time can be calm that positive filter so that you don’t lean into those types of things. I mean, I think at the very least it’s, I understand how you’re feeling I’ve had similar experiences, the end not? And let me tell you what all those things were.

Anne Candido 7:56
Yeah. So yep, I agree.

April Martini 7:59
All right, number two, on how to build empathy in the workplace, seek to know your staff on a personal level. And

Anne Candido 8:08
yeah, and this makes a lot of people cringe, especially if they happen to be a tad bit introverted. Or if they feel like they’re so busy that they just want to put the work first. But this is extremely important. And if the pandemic taught us anything, it taught us that human reaction and human relation is extremely important for our own personal sense of well being. And well, if you want to express empathy, or if you want to be empathetic, you really need to know who your people are at their core, and who they are outside of just the job they do in order to be able to express that empathy, because it is those relationships and those that knowledge that helps you to construct which the right way in order to engage with someone. So find out like who they are as people, what are they like to do? What do they like to do on weekends? And how are you going to help them feel that this is the place that they want to be, and they’re going to feel really good about being in that place. Now, you don’t have to be best friends with them. I mean, they are your staff, and there is some level of decorum that you have to maintain when you are the boss or the leader or the manager or even as colleagues. I mean, there’s still some level of respect that needs to be still maintained from a professional standpoint. We talked about, you know, going out and getting super drunk in front of your colleagues and your bosses and how that’s not such a really good idea. But the whole objective here is to make sure that all is very authentic, right? It needs to feel that it is coming from a place of good intention, not from a place of feeling like it is contrived. So make sure that you’re taking that opportunity to really understand who they are as people and that will help you to be able to drive this empathetic connection. is that those people are gonna feel like you appreciate and respect them as humans? Yeah,

April Martini 10:04
I mean, I think all of those are really good points. And I think that sometimes this can feel a little bit daunting, especially if you are, like you said, somewhat introverted, or this is not your natural way with people. But what I will say is that it pays for itself in spades. And it doesn’t have to be anything that you overthink or over plan, you know. So I remember, one of the companies I’ve referenced it before, where I kind of always felt like a fish out of water. And I didn’t feel like I really jive with any of my coworkers. And then I was on a business trip with the one I probably related to, I thought the least. And so we were in Orlando for a project. And the last thing that I felt like I wanted to do was talk anymore that day. And it was just, it was a long day. And I was like, ah, but we weren’t going out the client. And so we found this like total hole in the wall dive by where we were staying. And I just kind of started asking questions, and realized that I liked him a whole lot more than I ever could have thought that I would. And after that it was like, we just had an instant relationship and connection. And what that does is it allows people to feel like they’re seen, I think, you know, he was more on like the digital programming side of things. So less easy, especially for someone like me to really relate to talk to, but after that trip, you would seek me out and ask about my weekend. And it definitely unlocked something. So I just say all that to say it’s not like it takes a whole lot, right. I think we had a couple beers in a dinner for an hour. And that was it. And that was all it took to get past what was, you know, a place where I don’t think either one of us thought we would necessarily jive.

Anne Candido 11:54
Yeah, I think that’s a really good point about how simple it can be. I mean, we, we tend to create these elaborate events and team buildings, and all of these things that we think are going to help drive empathy, or my my favorite, as you know, is when you had to do the StrengthsFinder before that, and then going to be a group and then you had to talk about it, right? These aren’t necessarily the most conducive to forming empathy within people or within a team sometimes. Nice is exactly what I would say is like, Hey, if you don’t want to kind of get to know each other, let’s go out to dinner. Yes, let’s share a meal. Let’s have drinks. I mean, even if you don’t drink drink, that’s totally fine. Yeah, it’s not they’re about it’s more of the social aspect of coming together in a place and being able to freely talk and have somebody share something that they find really exciting, my favorite place that they have, or you know, somebody that they can share with the team, so they can find out a little bit more about them. And you can even do that around the group. And everybody can take a turn at sharing something that’s really important to them. And somebody can experience that and enjoy that. I mean, there’s lots of ways of being able to form empathy. I highly suggest not trying to force it through these things that look like for hours, and all of a sudden we’re going to have a you know, a highly empathetic team. Right? Promise. Right? So it’s, it’s more of a kind of putting people together and seeing how they do versus Okay, we have a regimented agenda. And right now, we’re not apathetic. But when we walk out, we will be I mean, that’s, I find those and I think people find those to be inauthentic.

April Martini 13:25
Totally. Yeah, well, I’ll just put the final point on all of those tests, right, whether it’s StrengthsFinder or whatever it is, just be careful. Because they put a formula against people I feel like and then you’re open to interpretation, when really your personal brand may or may not exhibit what inherently is, quote unquote, you according to those tests. Yeah. I

Anne Candido 13:47
love it. When people try to classify me in like eight different categories. I know. I’m like, I can’t be defined.

April Martini 13:53
Okay, different topic for another day. Well, maybe. Okay, number three, on how to build empathy in the workplace, respect your employees by having the tough conversations. And we’ve talked a lot about tough conversations on the show, because they are so very important. And confrontation is a tricky thing. No matter who you are. For me, anyone that says, Oh, I’m really fantastic at confrontation. It’s kind of a little bit tone-deaf, right. Like, I would consider myself to have strong abilities and addressing issues. I wouldn’t say that I love doing it or that I’m just so good at it. Liking to argue is not the same as being good at it. Right? That’s I like to argue sometimes yes, but I’m not necessarily good at it. Although I went a lot. Oh my god, does that count? Oh, we’re just off the rails today. Okay. So I guess the more empathetic my, my point here is that there isn’t anyone that really likes it. But it is really, really important to the effectiveness and productivity at work and also to have a highly functioning team that you can confront issues as they come up. And one of the ways to make this easier is by treating your employees with empathy, and then also having these conversations as a result in a timely manner so that no issue gets, quote unquote too big. Right? I think what happens a lot of times is people shy away from having a confrontational conversation. And then it just gets worse and worse and worse, and emotions build and feelings build, and everyone can feel it. And so you end up in this place of highly, highly elevated emotions and emotional state. But if you’ve been practicing active listening, and you’ve gotten to know your employees on a personal level, that should make these conversations easier, because the employees then feel like you’re in their corner. And we always say, Give feedback directly, but respectfully, and then also work with the person to decide what you’re gonna do about it, come up with a plan to address it together. And make sure also that you hear the other party out, or give them time to process and come back and continue the conversation with you. One of the things about tough conversations, and we’ve said this before, in a variety of ways, and probably even directly is that, because people don’t love confrontation, even if they know they have to deliver the message, they rush through it. And then it’s kind of like, okay, that’s done, it’s over with, and we’re just going to move on from here. And that’s not the way that it works. That’s not an empathetic approach at all. Because you’re not taking into account the other person’s feelings, you’re only thinking about the fact that you got through having to have the tough conversation. So just make sure that you take the time with all the steps in this episode, but also really specific to this one, to ensure that the dialogue is ongoing after the tough conversation happens for as long as it needs to. And then also that there is an ongoing loop for feedback. So people get used to it. And the tough conversations become less tough, because it’s just a business practice and how you operate.

Anne Candido 16:54
Yeah, I think that’s a really, really well said, I have two points to add to that. One is, in order to be able to have the tough conversations in a way that’s highly productive, you have to create what a lot of people call psychological safety. Yes. Right. And so that makes those conversations easier to have, yeah. Because already the person knows that it’s going to be a conversation and not discussion about how they feel in a miserable way. Now their jobs at risk, or that whatever they did, or they behaved is going to be somehow detrimental to their overall progression, those things might actually be true. But in a place where there’s psychological safety, people feel okay, that, you know, if I make a mistake, it’s not going to be detrimental. Or it’s not that there’s not going to be retribution, or there’s not going to be an element of judgment that’s going to make me feel insecure about who I am as a person. Now, there might still be consequences, yes, but at least the nature of the conversation comes from a place of where you’re all in it together. I’m here to support you, I’m wanting what’s best for you. And this is what it looks like versus I’m your judgmental boss. And you can do things well, and you do things not so well. When you do things while you’re fine. When you do things not so well, then you’re in big, big trouble, right? I just finished Adam grants book Think again, which I found really insightful. And he talks a lot about psychological safety and the benefits of that and how that really seems to fuel highly successful environments, both in work and in life. So if you want more about that, that is a book that I highly recommend. The other point that I was going to build on yours is, you know, kindness is not weakness. And I think a lot of leaders and managers find that that is a really hard line to toe that if I’m calm, people are gonna see me as weak. And where that always seems to come to fruition is in the worry about setting a precedent, right? Yep. So if I am somehow lenient here with this person, say, you know, if I’m having a tough conversation about something that they did, and we find out, hey, it’d be just better if they actually work from home one day a week. Now, obviously, I set a precedent, I have to offer that to everybody. Yeah. And what we’re going to say is no, that is not true. The precedent you need to set is like, I am going to do what’s best for each individual person with an what’s going to do what’s best for the business that might look different for all of you. Just like it looks different when you when you’re parenting your kids, or any other situation is like treating people equal is not the goal here treating people like their people, and being able to tailor a customized that that arrangement so that it works for them. That’s what empathy is about.

April Martini 19:33
Yeah. Well, and I think that you said two things that I want to emphasize back to the point about the feedback. It’s called a tough conversation for a reason because it’s a conversation, it’s a back and forth. It’s not just you laying down the law to the employee. And then on the other side, the fact that everything is not in every person is not created equal. being empathetic means that you are seeing each individual person where they are in that given time. And then what they as the individual needs. And so I think your parenting one is spot on, I remember growing up, and my parents were always quick to nip that that’s not fair or equal or whatever in the bud. But one thing that it did teach me is that, because we’re all individuals, and when we layer on something like empathy, it frees you from having to say, Well, I did this for so and so. So I have to do it for the other person, it actually allows you to do exactly the opposite. If you are practicing empathy consistently with everybody, yeah, I think that’s exactly right. Um, all right, number four, on how to build empathy in the workplace, ask for feedback and mean it and then do something about it. And

Anne Candido 20:40
yeah, so this can be really, really hard for a lot of managers for many different reasons. Like what we just mentioned, about having the tough conversations, and setting up that psychological safety so that when you have the tough conversations with people that they feel like they’re in a safe place in order to be vulnerable, in order to be able to really share what’s going on with them. So you can actually get to what needs to be addressed. You actually have to do that the other way, too. You need to create space so that people can have that conversation with you about you. Yes, right. Yeah. And so that is really, really hard. Because as leaders and managers, especially sometimes we’ll think, but I’m supposed to be the one who knows it all, I’m supposed to be the model, there’s not supposed to be anything wrong with me, if there’s a chink in my armor, then they’re gonna think that the whole thing is gonna fall down, we’re actually it’s really the opposite. When you’re able to show a layer of vulnerability, when you’re able to admit that you’re wrong, when you’re able to see then, oh, well, what I originally thought maybe is different than what I thought when you were able to really get over some of your initial emotions that you have associated with something that happened and actually deal with what’s actually below it. Those sorts of things create an environment that can be so highly productive, that is the key to a highly effective team. And if you’ve heard any of our episodes, you’re gonna hear that repeated multiple, multiple times. It is not the opposite. It’s not being a stoic. You know, nothing bothers me, I’m unflappable kind of leader, where I’m not open to what might be my opportunities. And so therefore, I’m gonna be tone deaf to everything that’s going on in my organization, that is not the way to build empathy, or build a highly effective team or an highly empathetic team. So you have to be really, really intentional about asking for the feedback, making sure that the feedback that you’re soliciting is the feedback that you actually want to hear. That means you have to be asked really good question. Yes. Right. Yes. And because what you’re what you owe them is what you’re gonna go do with that feedback, right? The worst thing is when you solicit the feedback, and then you’re like, oh, that happened because of that reason. And that really is on that person that was just like a one time incident. So you start to just basically judge it and push it away, or deflect it or blame others for it. Again, all that might be very true. But what you need to synthesize in your brain is like, hey, are there any themes here? Right, is there something that like, I’m consistently hearing, if a kid shows up a little bit differently, then maybe I need to address because that’s all about you progressing in being empathetic with yourself, as well as with your team. And because this is a two way street. So you need to really spend that time with it and see if this is really something that you need to address. If it’s not, and maybe a decent amount of it, you won’t. And that’s could be, that’s your decision, that’s your choice. Because if you you do internalize too much, and you start to change your personal brand, and you’re kind of waffling, every time you get a piece of feedback that does make you appear a little bit wishy washy, that does start to reflect on the competence that people have in your leadership and your management. But back to what I was saying, if you are not going to take it, you owe that person or that group back to say, I’ve heard you, I’ve heard what you said, this is how I internalized it, this is what I’m going to go do about it, even if it’s not going to be something that you’re going to take in and you’re going to make an active change against. But I would highly stress that you need to find something hit in order to be able to be empathetic to your team that will cause some shift in your behavior, some shift in your actions that they see as feeling like they’re being heard, right, even if it’s something small. So that’s what I would suggest on this one is again, it’s about integrity. But it’s also about the act of listening but being vulnerable and listening for what might be going on that you may not be actually in tune with.

April Martini 24:42
Yeah, I think all of that is so true. And a couple builds I want to make is number one. I think just giving people a comfortable in for the feedback can take a lot of the angst away right because especially if you are the boss and then you ask people on your team that report to you for free feedback, even if you are the most empathetic boss ever known to man, it’s still really hard for people to bring issues to you because you’re the boss, and it goes against the grain of what they think they’re supposed to do, right? So the way that I speak to this or think about this is with our teams, the people that work with me, and then also our clients is asking things like, Is this helpful? Are there things we can do better, or even joking a little, and being like, you know, we’re forthright for a reason. So you don’t have to hold back, right? Anything that stylistically, feels comfortable and authentic to you. But that kind of takes down the anxiety for people on the other end, and gives them the opportunity and kind of the floor to give you thoughts without having to make it like super formal or uncomfortable, right? Like, I’m going to ask you for feedback, like, you know, like, it just doesn’t always work super well that way. And so I think a lot of it is in your approach. And then also one of the other things that we do often is talk about ourselves and how we operate. And I think this can be a good practice to for folks that are in more of the managerial or leadership positions is like, you know, I’ll say how am I, I feel like it takes me seven times of hearing something before it finally, registers like to be punched in the face before I can actually get it. But one of the things that I’m working on for myself and ways to relate better is to not need that many times of hearing things. And so I’ll tell people that, you know, I’m trying to really focus when I’m given feedback, I’m trying to make it so that I don’t have to hear similar things to create the themes and the thread work. So be patient with me. But I am working on that. And I am hearing the feedback. And this is kind of how I’m traditionally built. But just know that right? So it’s kind of taking some of the onus, I guess, and giving some grace to people on the other side, which is super empathetic to appreciate, man, if I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t feel super comfortable, or this is a big ask or I wouldn’t want to be asked that way, you know, like those kinds of things. So that you are really putting yourself in their shoes and trying to meet them halfway or further. Yeah, now

Anne Candido 27:13
we’re talking a lot about boss employee situations. But this applies to anybody that’s very good at is Yes. Any kind of situation where relating to people like expressing empathy, and it especially in a team environment is a huge ly needed practice. Because a lot of times we don’t understand what the other person need, where the other person’s coming from, what the rewards that other person. And we talked about this being fundamental, and a way of being able to grow as a teammate, even of really understanding how that other person ticks in order to be able to be empathetic to what they need to accomplish in order for them to be fulfilled, in addition to what you need to accomplish in order to feel fulfilled, right. So how do those things work together? That’s a huge, huge exercise of empathy that a lot of people don’t take, because they get too wrapped up in themselves. So sometimes it’s just shedding the it’s all about me. And in order to really understand how you can better serve the the greater team the greater goal, the business in its entirety.

April Martini 28:16
Yes. All fair points. All right, so just to recap how to build empathy in the workplace. Number one, listen first and speak second, let the other person say their piece and do not jump in and interrupt. Number two, seek to know your staff on a personal level, we are not robots as humans, we need to feel like we are seen and heard. Number three, respect your employees by having the tough conversations, the longer you wait, the harder it will be. And number four, ask for feedback and mean it then do something about it. You don’t have to take all of it, but you do have to hear all of it. All right, in our next segment in the trenches, where as you all know, we give real world examples specific to industries and situations sometimes, but with broad application, so any of you listening can digest what we’re saying and put it into action. So number one here, what if a person is not naturally empathetic? Do you really believe it’s possible to build it? Well, yeah, we wouldn’t have created this episode, first and foremost. But I mean, very seriously, I’ve gone back and forth on this over the years because one I personally just over index and empathy to a point where it can be a problem for me, so I sort of sit on the other side of needing to build it, I need to maybe take it away some cases. And then to most women do naturally have it in spades. Right. So it’s not uncommon that as a female, I would have a lot of it right. But I will say that I have seen it developed with a concerted effort on many different occasions. And I’ve also some people say, that’s just not me and then fail on the other side of not putting this into practice. So very honestly, I’d say yes, it can be built. If you’re going to be A really good boss or manager or as an pointed out teammate in a work environment, you have to have empathy, or you’re only going to get so far or like I said before, you’re going to fail at some point, because it’s just a requirement these days, you have to have it. And now, of course, before you tell me, you’ve seen people rise without it and blew their way to the top, all of that is also true. But I can also say that karma is real. And I’ve seen a lot of come up in my cheese, nearly 20 years now, which is crazy to think I just saw another fall from glory recently with a former boss that seemed to have more lives than anyone I had ever seen. And he fell hard and fast. And all of us were like, Damn, it took a while. But okay, we made it. So just know, I’m not putting that energy out there. But I will say that, you know, kind of worry about yourself, not those situations, those will resolve themselves. And I’ve seen it plenty of times, but all that to say, it really doesn’t take much to treat other people with human respect, which builds empathy, right? If you put yourself in other people’s shoes, we keep reiterating that definition, so that you hear us, then there really is no reason that you shouldn’t be able to take an empathetic approach, it’s all about just taking a moment, taking a breath, if it goes against your grain, do the opposite of what you would normally do get to know someone like we talked about on a personal level, and just know that whether they become your best friend or not, or a long term employee, or long term coworker or whatever, it doesn’t matter, because you’re focused on building your ability to empathize, which you should be practicing on all people all the time, really everywhere. But this is specific to work. So I’ll stop there, Lenny, and talk.

Anne Candido 31:46
Well, you know, if you’re gonna be very honest about the fact that you over index and empathy, I have to be very honest about i Under index. And that’s why we complement each other. And that’s fair. Yes. And that was, this would be something that I would get a tremendous amount of feedback on. And I think there’s a question where we have to actually really divulge that about soft skills. So IE, not not was not my strong suit, I was I was tend to tended to be the person who was like, What the heck is their problem? And I can’t give any feedback here without like, this person breaking down, I’m just giving him to it straight, just like they said they wanted it, you know, and I know everybody can think about a gazillion reasons why somebody deserved what was being said, or how it had to be said, or why should I waste my time and, and do it any other way than the way that I was going to do it? And this is all about, you know, getting the work done. And all of those things, again, could be absolutely re but if you were sit back and you would think about could I have done it in a different way to be just as effective, but be more empathy, empathetic. So I had a different impact on those people that then actually has like a more fortuitous ball rolling, if you will. So the next time you have those conversations, then it becomes easier, because then those tough conversations become from a place that that they know is good autonomy. You could probably have to say yes, like, Yes, I could probably have done it better would have taken me any more time, maybe a tad bit more time. But you know, there’s also the thing you have to weigh with, again, what you want your personal brand to be and how do you want to show up? And what how do you need to show up in order to progress, right? And that’s actually the part if I was to be very, very honest. That was my initial motivator, right? This was not altruistic. Yes, I’m a naturally empathetic person, I want what’s best for everybody, even though I do love people, and I don’t want, you know, anything bad to come to people. But you know, I was, you know, out for myself, I wanted to move ahead. And I wanted to do all these things. And the feedback was consistent that if I couldn’t find a way to be more empathetic, no, no word is hardly ever used, yeah, we’re gonna get to say our sales, right? Then I wasn’t going to progress, because that’s just not the environment we have. So if you need to know something that’s not an altruistic movement here, then just use that if you want to progress in your career, if you want your business to do well, if you want your team to be highly successful, you have to build empathy. And that’s just not us saying that. Go research. Anything that you want to go research any of the top psychologists like Adam Grant, any of the big folks like Tony Robbins, who has been doing this and preachiness and talking about this for years and years years, you pick whoever you want, and they will all tell you the same thing that this is essential. But like I said, sometimes it’s not the initial altruism of it that moves you forward is the self preservation. It’s the self motivation is I want this for my team. I want this for my business. So I just put that out there.

April Martini 34:41
Yeah, no, I mean, I think it doesn’t matter. Right? I mean, it doesn’t, it really doesn’t. It’s, it’s what we’ve said, which is everybody has to do this now. So get on board or you’re not gonna find what you want. Right. And I think it’s a really fair point to say. It’s not always from a place of, I just am this way and I want the best thing for me. Every one it really isn’t. It’s I’m running up against a wall and nothing’s working, I’m gonna try something new or, you know, I feel like I keep getting the same feedback, like you said, maybe it’s time to action against it, whatever that looks like, it can be a super objective reason, it can be a super self motivated reason for getting to the next step. It doesn’t matter. It’s just the approach that is necessary to get in there.

Anne Candido 35:24
And to that point, a retention, yes, retention, as long as based on this, if you’re losing people left and right, this is a place that you need to look.

April Martini 35:32
Yes, absolutely. Number two in the trenches, my company does not seem to value the soft skills, and we’re just all about performance. What can I do about this? So honestly, it does not matter. This is about you, taking the approach with your team, whether you’re the leader or not, and making yourself better, will it be more difficult, probably in the short term, it’ll probably take a little more time, you know, we’re not going to sugarcoat things for you guys. But the only thing you can control is how you act. And there is nothing that says in order to succeed, you have to be inhuman. There just isn’t. And I, you know, I’ve mentioned the examples of falls from glory. Like I said, I’ve seen so many of them. And they all had the bad behavior of taking a run at things from the opposite of an empathetic approach, super self serving, super, super ego driven only out for themselves, it was very clear all of those different types of situations. And that’s why this approach is so very important. We are big fans of controlling your own reality. So if you’re the leader in actus, today, are you on a team and you’re not the leader will then take charge and begin to change the reality for both yourself and those around you. I think this is another instance where COVID did us some favors, because there really isn’t a ton of tolerance anymore for the old approach of sit in your chair and do your job and don’t cause any waves. Empathy actually is hugely important because as we treat people more as individuals with individual needs, that’s where you can kind of take one off approaches with folks. And we I mean, we just had a coaching client recently where the opportunity came for her boss to call out his boss. And that’s something that I think we historically don’t often see a lot of right or not a lot with positive results. I’ll just leave it there. But because the company was trying to exercise more empathy and total, and to Anne’s point, they are having a huge retention problem. And this boss kind of tried to mandate some things about how many days in the office, how many hours we’re all hearing these conversations going on, right? And it was in a lay down the hammer. Put the fear of god in these people. And it was really the opposite of what was needed, especially given the retention problem, but also because they’re competing with all these other companies, right? And so this person’s boss went to his boss and said, I do not think that was right. And now we have to undo what just happened there. And it was received. Fine. It was you know, I think there was some little resistance at first that that wasn’t what I meant. That’s not how it sounded some of the things we’re talking about here. But it was also like, Oh, shoot. Okay, I can see how that was construed. And I probably need to not that you can ever redact it, but maybe speak again about that

Anne Candido 38:23
it’d be a limited possibility for accountability for Yes, yes,

April Martini 38:27
exactly. So anyway, that’s my perspective on this one in the in the softer skills.

Anne Candido 38:32
Yeah. And I think I agree with you. And I think the point that I want to re emphasize is that it’s not about others, it’s about you. Yes, I mean, and that is so fundamentally important, because sometimes it takes the one person the model in order for others to feel okay about doing it as well, yes, a plus, plus, plus, plus, if you’re the leader in, you’re able to do that, because like we said before, your people will not model behavior that you don’t model yourself 1,000% You have to be the model. And really, really a plus, plus plus or plus, if you’re a team member, and you’re doing it from that standpoint, because that is even riskier, and to some extent is because you’re putting yourself your own personal self at risk here with no expectation and anybody else is going to do something or follow you, right? So there’s there is some element of risk associated with that. We totally, totally understand that. And this is why we say sometimes you have to tread just a tad bit lightly, because it can be an element of where people see that and they want to seize upon especially have if you have a very toxic environment from which you work that you have to kind of take that into consideration for how people might see that take advantage of it. Try to use it to their own advantage. All of those kinds of those evil things that especially highly empathetic people don’t want to believe happened, but can happen very toxify So I say be very cognizant of your environment, see, and really entertain and think about how some things that you’re going to do could be perceived or be used or abused. I’m not saying don’t go do it, I’m just saying, Take little smaller steps. Don’t put yourself out there in really a big degree until you can see that it’s a safe place in order to go do that. Now, a lot of people will say, Well, what if it never like that, then you have to really seriously consider if that’s the right place for you, if that’s the right environment for you, if you’re going to thrive in that environment, because there is possibility that that environments just not conducive to what you need in order to feel fulfilled into integral there. But take some, like I said, take some small steps, be very cognizant of your environment. Be very careful about in monitor how people are responding to Oh, yeah, the response is huge. But don’t take don’t think that, you know, everybody has good intentions all the time. Even though a lot of times we say, don’t assume everybody has bad intentions all the time, too. So I know we’re tired on both sides of our mouth. But I think the thing that we’re just I’m just trying to say is to to be cautious, tread lightly, be highly aware. And then you can kind of see how that starts building your confidence to do more and be more. Yeah, I

April Martini 41:19
mean, I think that that’s totally fair. And I think that that’s our advice, anytime you’re gonna change anything, is wholesale change is never a recommendation, which is not what we’re saying here. But it’s the test and learn approach is always one of our favorites. And this is a real good place to enact that. And to Anne’s point, see what response you get, and then make calculated changes from there. Yeah,

Anne Candido 41:41
really well said.

April Martini 41:41
Yep. All right. Number three, in the trenches, I have been accused of being too soft. This is the one you’re referencing.

Anne Candido 41:48
I just went there. Okay. So anyway, I’ve

April Martini 41:50
been accused of being too soft. How do I toughen up, and I’ll let you start here. Yes, as

Anne Candido 41:55
hope I’ve never said or no, it was never been told me there. You know, this is one that like, we were just saying before that there is some things you need to consider, especially if you fall on the highly empathetic side. And this is a really hard one to talk about. Because the last thing we want to do is kill your sense of empathy and harden you to the real harsh, cruel world that’s out there, we just want to give you some sensitivity to help you understand that there is a balance, and that you’re going to have to manage that. Just like every other personal brand characteristic, that’s going to help you either move yourself towards your goals, or somebody that’s getting in the way to not helping you achieve the goals you want to achieve. And knowing that if you tend to be highly empathetic, that they you have some tendencies that you’re going to need to really watch out for that could undermine your credibility that could undermine the confidence people have in you as being a leader. So as an example, highly empathetic people tend to be okay with people kind of walking all over them, right? Because not intentionally, and you would never call it that. But when you let deadlines slide for people, because they come up with some big excuse as to why they couldn’t achieve it at that time, when you expect people to do a certain quality of work or to engage with you in a certain way, and they don’t do it. And they give you a big excuse why and you’re like, Oh, I get it. And that’s totally fine. And then worse, if you decide you’re going to take it all on yourself, because that person couldn’t do it. And this happens in business and in life. And it can happen a lot. If people understand that they’re not going to be held accountable by you. If they do these things. Now, they might not have any ill intent, or no, they might not even be coming from a bad place. And all these things may be true. But what you have to really acknowledge about yourself is what you are trying to achieve and what it takes from others in order to achieve that. Right. And so if you need somebody to deliver something on a certain time, in order for your work to be delivered at a certain time, in order for it to be the quality you want it to be, you have to hold that person accountable for doing that. Right. And it might not be you having to go and having that conversation might be your boss having to go have that conversation or their boss having that conversation. So you don’t necessarily need to take on everything resulting in that confrontation. But you do need to be very clear and I’m using this one as an example of what those expectations are and then giving that feedback when they’re not met. So that’s one way that we’re seeing empathy really play out in a way that is highly detrimental to people. And what can really happen from that is that if one person sees that you don’t hope hold one person to the ideals that you have set out then they’re going to feel like they’re kind of wishy washy on nice a lot of gray. Yeah, no, no, no, I don’t do they really mean I have to be there at five or is it okay if I’m there? 5:30 I mean, so on So showed up at 5:30. So why do I need to show up? have five of us your own example. I know that this is triggering some certain situations, you’re like, oh, maybe that’s why people aren’t listening to me, maybe that’s why people aren’t giving me or taking me seriously or giving me what I need when I need it, you know, so. So think about that, in the context of some of the recent situations you’ve had, and see if there seems there. And that might give you some indication if you’re being overly empathetic.

April Martini 45:23
I think all of that is totally right on. And I think that the more objective you can get with yourself here to Dan’s comments about you know, how do you kind of take a step back and look at things, we often recommend for a variety of reasons, kind of keeping a journal or keeping track of trends that come up for a couple of weeks, all those types of things, you know, situations that may be seemingly aren’t related. But when you examine them further, you’re like, Oh, those are connected to each other. So try to do that, it also makes things a lot more objective, especially if there are things that you’re doing that are causing the reaction you don’t want to happen. Those are just some really good ways to kind of get it at a granular level that then doesn’t feel overwhelming, you can identify where it’s happening, where the breakdowns are, and then how to change your behavior from there. I think the other thing that I wanted to say about this one is to just make sure that you are honoring yourself. So to Anne’s point about, we don’t want to feel like the Big Bad Wolf, we don’t want to say that empathy is bad, we talk about your personal brand characteristics all the time as being just inherently who you are neither good nor bad. It’s all in how you manage them. So I think if you’re taking a proactive approach to your personal brand, and again, you’re thinking about things with a little bit more objectivity, it’ll help you identify, well, what your characteristics are. So soft skills is kind of a broad topic, you might not over index and empathy to the point of this episode might be something totally different. But you need to identify those things. And then those opportunity areas or situations that need to be amended and fixed moving forward. And then you can kind of go from there. I think this is one where people get their feelings hurt. So they shy away, or they cop out with, that’s who I am, I can’t change it. And what we’re here to say is, that’s not actually true. And there are plenty of tools out there, if you’re willing to put the work in to be able to get yourself set up for success in the future.

Anne Candido 47:26
Yeah, I think all that’s right. And I would just add to that, make it about the work not about the person, yes, that’s one way of being able to take a little bit of that out. So you don’t have to feel that the two are in conflict. And you can just have a very good big conversation about the work because I mean, again, there’s gonna be lots of things that are going on in people’s lives, but the work is still expected to be done. And that’s what you can continue to uphold doesn’t mean that you’re going to be, you know, the stringent and flexible person ever, or in all cases, but there are times in places where you’re gonna have to put your foot down. And that’s going to be they need to know that. And they need to be able to expect that right? Yes. So you have to be consistent in the way that you are acting if you want them to continue to understand what your expectations are. And that’s also being empathetic to them in that case, right? Because you are honoring the fact that they have a lot going on in their lives. So you are going to be very clear, and you are going to be very consistent so that they don’t have to think about how you’re going to act or how you’re going to behave or what you’re actually going to be if this happens or that happens. So it’s kind of like both sides of the coin. Yes, it’s being empathetic. And having empathy and being empathetic, is that right? I don’t know. Now I’m starting to probably create kind of alluded to,

April Martini 48:42
but also, like mindfulness of yourself and the empathetic trait that you have, and then showing empathy to others is kind of I think both and I

Anne Candido 48:51
think it’s like what is empathy, but I actually personally believe that all soft skills are some level of empathy in some way or another. And if you really have any trouble seeing this for yourself, get a coach. They’ll help you diagnose, dissect it give you all the cultivated, and very specific strategies you can use in your situations in order to be able to deal with this on an ongoing basis. Yep, they have someone in your corner and have somebody in your corner for sure.

April Martini 49:15
All right, and our third and final segment is where we highlight companies or brands that may or may not be using their marketing smarts and may or may not have anything to do with today’s episode. And actually, this is a very good example of a company using their marketing smarts or rather a person as the CEO of a company, and also actually ties really nicely to the theme of empathy. And that is Logan Mitchell Hines who is the CEO of Mitchell’s Salon & Day Spa. She recently spoke at our very first ForthRight Women’s event and I won’t say any more about that here, but you can certainly reach out if you’d like to know more about that. But she gave a speech about how she leads her teams and her people at And the empathetic approach that she takes. And she made lots of very good points. And I couldn’t possibly reiterate them all here. But a couple of the things that really stuck out to me speak very directly to what we talked about in this episode. And so she talked about always treating people with respect and kindness and as individuals based on what they need, but also being able to take a hard line and a hard stance when that was necessary. And then still maintaining the relationship on the other side of that, which I think that is the ultimate test, right? If you can be that empathetic to were in some of the instances, it was like we had to let people go, or we had to give people a timeout, or, you know, whatever those things are, if you can do that, and still have a very close relationship with that person, I think that’s amazing. And one of the things that she preaches is that she tells people very overtly, I’ll still be here for you, regardless of the outcome of the business situation, because I care about you as a person. But this is where we’re landing in this situation. And this is what needs to be done for me as the CEO to better serve my business. And I think that just that example, in and of itself, speaks to exactly what we’re talking about here, and how to balance out your empathy to be really, really effective. And she’s been rewarded with tremendous loyalty. So there are people I think someone said, and don’t quote me, you know, I’ve been there 11 years at Mitchell’s and I was like, 11 years, and it was like, oh, that’s nothing, we have people high in the 20s. Right. And so you see how she’s rewarded with retention, how that model really pays out. And also on the other side, I mean, to the point I was just making about feeling empathy, yourself sort of paraphrasing, versus putting empathy out there, Logan feels like she has this amazing community of folks around her that are supporting her in the same way she’s supporting them. And that’s also the way that when you do it, right, it really should work, you should receive that back on the other side, because people respect you so much for the culture that you’ve put in place and making it one of empathy. And so in any case, a little bit of happenstance, perhaps but she and Mitchell’s were super top of mind for me, coming out of that session, and just all of the energy around it, but also being able to tie very positive marketing smarts moment to Logan and to her business and give them a shout out.

Anne Candido 52:26
Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. It was a wonderful, wonderful talk by Logan, in where she was extremely vulnerable. In a lot of these situations, it was very helpful for a lot of other women to hear. So yes, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And just to hit a couple of nuances on that, too, because I mean, not only is she the CEO, but she is also the owner.

April Martini 52:47
Yes, right. Sorry, I didn’t overtly state that you’re right, CEO and owner,

Anne Candido 52:51
which I think it’s very important to stay because some of those people that she was talking about were family, yes, right. And a lot of people get into a situation with empathy with their family, or people that feel like family or people that have been around forever, and they tend to give them more grace, and they tend to do in other situations. But where Logan was so smart, and doing everything that you said that she did, and the conversation that she had with folks is that this is my business. As much as I love you, you are not going to sacrifice my business, right, I have to protect my business. Right. And that’s the conversation I think a lot of people have to have if they were to actually show up as owners of the business. Yes. Regardless of where you work, regardless if it’s your business or not. But as owners of the business, you have to protect the area. That is what you’re trying to build what you’re trying to grow in. That is your responsibility. Yes. And that doesn’t mean like you can’t give somebody a second chance. It doesn’t mean like you can you move them to a place that’s better for them. There’s a lot of ways to solve for that. It’s not just like you’re in or you’re out. Yes, but it is actually then acknowledging where that person is failing. Yes. And letting them go in some cases as highly empathetic in some situations. And I can tell you from a lot of people who were let go from P&G, I haven’t had one person come back and say that that was the worst thing that ever happened to them. I’ve actually had more people say that was the best thing that ever happened to the blessing in disguise a blessing in disguise because even though it’s painful in the moment, a lot of people realize that they weren’t doing as well as they wanted to anyway, but a lot of people’s we’ve talked about in many different episodes. Don’t move on for a whole bunch of situations and reasons. So sometimes you have to be the empathetic person. Sometimes empathetic person is like, I’m sorry, this is just not working. Regardless if it’s family, which is much harder. Somebody you’ve known for a while somebody you haven’t known for a while somebody has a special situation that you feel sympathy for them as well as empathy, right? So it’s a very tough road to hoe. I think she does it extremely well. I think she’s gained a ton of respect as a result. Retention is good and business is good. Right? So all good

April Martini 55:03
points. Yep. All right, so just to recap how to build empathy in the workplace number one, listen first and speak second, let the other person say their piece and do not jump in. Number two, seek to know your staff on a personal level. We’re not robots as humans, we need to feel like we are seen and heard. Number three, respect your employees by having the tough conversations. The longer you wait, the harder it will be. And finally, number four, ask for feedback and meet it then do something about it. You don’t have to take all of it but you do have to hear all of it. And with that, we will say go and exercise your Marketing Smarts! Still need help in growing your Marketing Smarts? Contact us through our website: We can help you become a savvier marketer through coaching or training you and your team or doing the work on your behalf. Please also help us grow the podcast by rating and reviewing on your player of choice and sharing with at least one person. Now go show off your Marketing Smarts!