Seven ways to embrace Ubuntu through empathy in the workplace

Ubuntu in the workplace. Image: Pexels/Fauxels

Ubuntu in the workplace. Image: Pexels/Fauxels

Published Jul 9, 2023


By embracing Ubuntu – we explore kindness, tolerance and empathy. Imagine a workplace where you feel a sense of belonging, connectivity and value, and play a key role in creating such an environment where one feels accepted and secure.

Each one of us has a meaningful role to play in creating a workplace environment that includes caring for everyone, especially those who are different from us.

Ubuntu originates from a Southern African philosophy that encompasses our aspirations about how to live life well together. There is a connectedness when we listen deeply, treat ourselves and others with dignity and respect, and when we recognise our inner worth and that of every human being. Ubuntu is opposite to vengeance and confrontation.

Vengeful behaviour results in toxic conflict. Someone harms us and we retaliate, which in turn brings about another harmful response – and it continues. A lack of empathy reduces morale, impacts mental health and decreases productivity.

The antidote is empathy. It is one of the most valuable skills to have and is the ability to consider and understand the perspective of someone else. Expressing empathy helps improve communication with others and creates great relationships, making for a positive workplace.

Empathy is inherent; and it is also a teachable skill. It can be learned and developed over time. If you are interested in improving relationships and a professional reputation, learning empathy is a great start.

Here are 7 ways in which you can develop empathy in the workplace:

1. Take an interest in people outside your social circle

Have conversations that are more than just about the weather. Share in others joy and success, even if it doesn’t directly involve you.

2. Be curious

Keeping an open mind helps you discover new things and strengthens your mind. Curiosity encourages us to explore and find connectedness. There are endless possibilities when we look beneath the surface.

3. Practise mindfulness

Mindfulness involves attentive listening, mindful speech. Pay attention to your thoughts. Stay focused. Be present. We develop an attitude of gentleness when we practise mindfulness.

Reading helps you see things through someone else’s perspective and experience. Readers are better able to connect their thoughts and emotions, and identify solutions to problems.

4. Ask for feedback

One of the ways you can drive self-awareness and self-regulation is to ask for feedback. This demonstrates your commitment to improving yourself and shows your dedication to having better relationships.

5. Examine your blind spots

In interpersonal relationships, a blind spot is a behaviour that others may see in you that you may not be aware of. Blind spots become a form of discrimination. Once you are aware of your blind spots, you can take steps to change a behaviour that may be considered discriminatory.

6. Challenge prejudices

Learning to simply treat people as individuals can be a challenge when we are constantly exposed to misinformation and prejudices in the workplace. Avoid generalising about groups of people and more importantly, challenge others that do. It is a good idea to resolve issues informally. Talking through something in a relaxed way helps you keep good working relationships. If that does not work, follow a formal procedure to change behaviour.

7. Volunteer

Volunteering amplifies empathy. We get to see the world through the eyes of others and we work together to make a positive impact in the community. It brings purpose to our lives and helps you develop compassion for others.

By Margie Angamuthu,

Learning and development practitioner at Symphony Skills.