How Empathetic Are You at Work?

How Empathetic are You? Take this Quiz and Find Out

Empathy is defined as the quality of recognizing and understanding another person’s desires, beliefs, needs and emotions. It’s an extremely important skill in the workplace – and one that’s often in short supply.

How adept are you at practicing empathy at work? Here’s why it matters: Leaders with empathy understand their employees’ needs and provide them with constructive feedback, and it’s a vital part of authentic leadership. Successful salespeople use their empathic ability to gauge a customer’s mood, which helps them decide when to pitch a product and when to keep quiet. And studies have found that people high in empathy are more confident, sensitive and assertive, and they enjoy better physical and mental health.

Take this quiz to see how well you practice empathy at work.

True or False

  1. If I don’t know enough to understand and empathize with another’s dilemma, I try to increase my knowledge by asking questions.
  2. I recognize and remember that others are different from me and might see and feel things differently. I try to look at the situation through that person’s eyes, not my own.
  3. I don’t need to be right about what I imagine the other person to be feeling. If I’ve misunderstood, I ask the person to help me correct my impressions.
  4. When I show that I understand the other person’s experience, I notice that the person I’m talking with opens up more.
  5. Being a good, active listener helps me “get” what someone else is going through.
  6. I try to focus on the other person’s feelings, rather than actions or circumstances. I know that when people are upset, it’s better to work through and handle their feelings before figuring out how to solve their problems.
  7. If a co-worker complains about his boss, I’m likely to advise that person to find another job, change departments or speak up. I like to be helpful by offering solutions.
  8. I’m always ready to offer a psychological analysis of my colleagues’ troubles.
  9. If a co-worker expresses anxiety about her relationship with her officemate, I’m quick to reassure her that it’s nothing and that she shouldn’t worry about it.
  10. It seems that I always know better than others what’s behind or underneath their problems at work.
  11. I’m quick to remind people that plenty of others are a lot worse off than they are.
  12. When empathizing with others, I imagine how I would feel in a given situation and assume the same would be true for them. We’re all basically the same, aren’t we?


So how’d you do? If you paid attention, you saw that the first 6 questions were behaviors of truly empathic people, whereas the last 6 were clearly not. The point is to open your eyes to behaviors you might think are emphatic (giving advice, providing immediate solutions) that are actually not at all empathetic.

The bottom line is that true empathy can only occur when we have successfully shed all preconceived ideas and judgments about others and listen to what’s being said. If you answered true more often to the second set of questions than the first, you may benefit from learning more about how to respond with empathy, how to really hear someone. It may be one of the most important work skills you can master. If you or your organization needs some help with empathy training or authentic leadership training, we can help.

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