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Empathy: the vital foundation for workplace success

A new kind of mantra

According to Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, the ability to understand and feel what others experience is critical to the work of technology giants like Microsoft. At an event in November, while discussing his book, Hit Refresh, Satya explained “…one of the things that I’ve come to realise is, if I look at what is Microsoft’s core business, it is about being able to meet the unmet and unarticulated needs of customers and there is just no way we are going to be able to succeed in doing that if we don’t have that deep sense of empathy.”

Empathy for everyone

Following Nadella’s lead, Microsoft is evolving to become a more empathetic culture by fundamentally changing the way the company operates internally and externally. Today, we are much more mindful of the impact our day-to-day relationships can make on our ability to achieve our goals in a hyper-competitive technology landscape. Embracing different perspectives––in and out of the office––has allowed us to elevate the quality of our work, our culture, and increase the efficiency with which we deliver products and services.

Three key ways to elevate empathy

Under Nadella’s leadership, we’re using empathy to unify teams and customers by focusing on three key areas:   

  1. Listening: We all want to be heard, which is why taking the time to truly listen to each other can be such a powerful force for good. It’s much easier for office workers to be effective in their roles if they know that their voices, opinions and ideas matter. To truly change the world through technology and innovation, we must all understand the needs of those around us.
  2. Trusting: Communicating ideas freely doesn’t always come easy in the workplace. But you’ll be amazed what teams can accomplish when they no longer worry about who gets credit for the wins––or blame for the losses, especially in competitive environments where no one wants to be wrong. That type of collective accountability can help elevate a team’s performance. 
  3. Understanding: Without asking, it can be hard to tell what kind of day someone is having. Gaining insight into the reasons for a colleague’s actions or feelings can make the difference between a productive interaction or an unproductive one. Relating to each other more closely makes for better communication and allows us to overcome barriers in new ways. 

At Microsoft, we’re driven to address the unmet and uncharacterized needs of our partner ecosystem—and a deep sense of empathy goes a long way toward achieving those goals. Nadella discusses in Hit Refresh how he has challenged Microsoft employees to be more empathetic in their daily lives. “My passion is to put empathy at the center of everything I pursue––from the products we launch, to the new markets we enter, to the employees, customers and partners we work with,” he reflects.

Empathy is not just something that’s nice for partners to have, it’s a vital tool for living the Microsoft mission and empowering everyone do more and achieve more.