NSC Business and Industry Division news NSC Labor Division news Research/studies Worker health and wellness Leadership Worker Health and Wellness

Report reveals large gap between worker and CEO views of empathy


Photo: tolgart/iStockphoto

West Des Moines, IA — Workers are far less likely than CEOs to describe their workplace as empathetic, suggesting that executives “are living very different work experiences than their employees, a new report contends.

A survey conducted in February on behalf of management consulting firm Businessolver used a sample of more than 1,000 part- and full-time workers in organizations with at least 100 employees. Respondents represented the banking/finance, health care, technology, hospitality and manufacturing industries, as well as government.

Findings show that 67% of the workers consider their organization empathetic – the lowest percentage since Businessolver began its “State of Workplace Empathy Report” in 2016. In contrast, 94% of CEOs surveyed believe their organization is empathetic.

Additionally, 67% of the CEOs said they’re more empathetic than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The sheer giddiness of CEO views sharply contrasts” with worker perceptions, the report states.

One possible reason? Vast discrepancies between how workers and CEOs view vital benefits. The report highlights multiple gaps of at least 20 percentage points between what workers feel are “must-have benefits” and how CEOs perceive the same benefits.

For example, 78% of the workers agreed that paid time off is a must-have benefit, while 46% of the CEOs concurred. Also, although 93% of the workers consider family benefits such as paid after-school programs an important sign of empathy, only 17% of organizations offer them.

“In the end, the gaps in perceptions that this year’s findings reveal should be a wake-up call for leaders to check their perceived realities against the workplace realities of their employees, as the data shows far more disconnect than alignment,” Businessolver founder and CEO Jon Shanahan said in a press release. “But leaders alone are not accountable for closing the empathy gap. Everyone has a responsibility to be stewards of empathy and employ ‘perspective taking’ to turn micro-empathy moments into macro-empathetic cultures.”

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)