Do you find yourself talking to someone no matter where you are? Maybe the person sitting next to you on the bus, or the person behind you in line at the grocery store? This is a sign of curiosity and curiosity leads to the level of empathy a person has. Most people fall into a category of either sympathetic or empathetic. Companies are encouraging employees to be more empathetic for several reasons.
Being sympathetic, allows for compassion towards a person going through difficult times. It can also relate to a cause that resonates with you. While it does involve compassion, you are only able to understand so much. For example, if someone is grieving, you are able to offer your condolences, but you are not able to relate with them.
Empathy is being able to put yourself in someone's shoes. You are able to hear of someones hardships and feel for them as if it were your own problems. Being empathetic is showing understanding, being able to recognize the difficulties one is experiencing, and listening to their worries. Having a high amount of empathy also leads to being good at solving problems and articulating your actions.
Companies like Apple include trainings on empathy within their employee manuals, and the Virgin Group CEO, Richard Branson sticks to the idea that "caring and cooperation are key". While not everyone is born empathetic, there are ways to be able to relate more with others over time. Based on experiences each person goes through, you are then able to relate more with others and show sensitivity to new topics.
Being sympathetic or empathetic is also based on your personality traits, and both are necessary in the workplace. However, a good leader will mainly be empathetic to each employee's unique opportunities and experiences, while also being able to recognize their strong suits. Being empathetic in a leadership role, while being authentic, is key to building relationships with each employee.