EY Study: Empathetic Leadership Creates Employee Loyalty

William Smith

Among the survey’s findings were that 90% of US workers believe empathetic leadership leads to higher job satisfaction

EY Study: Empathetic Leadership Creates Employee Loyalty

Professional services giant EY has released the results of a new study into how empathy affects leaders, employees and innovation in the workplace. 

The 2021 EY Empathy in Business Survey of over 1,000 US workers found that 55% had left a previous job because their boss wasn’t empathetic to their struggles at work. 

“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders are working to establish business transformation models to adapt in the new normal,” said Steve Payne, EY Americas Vice Chair – Consulting.

“Our research finds that empathy is not only a nice-to-have, but the glue and accelerant for business transformation in the next era of business. Empathy’s ability to create a culture of trust and innovation is unmatched, and this previously overlooked trait must be at the forefront of businesses across all industries.” 

Among the key findings were that 46% of employees felt company attempts to be empathetic were dishonest, with 42% saying that companies don’t follow through on promises. 

The top characteristics employees wanted in an empathetic leader included being: 

  • Open and transparent (41%) 
  • Fair (37%) 
  • Follows through on action (37%) 
  • Encourages others to share their opinions (36%) 
  • Trusted to handle difficult conversations (34%) 

EY framed the research as revealing factors behind the so-called “Great Resignation”, where employees are voluntarily leaving jobs following the COVID-19 pandemic. The study found that 58% of employees have previously left a job because they didn’t feel valued by their boss, and 48% have left a job because they didn’t feel like they belonged. 

The ability to connect with employees and provide a supportive work environment is more important than ever,” said Steve Payne. “Organisations and leaders must prioritise empathy to foster innovation, inspire growth and successfully lead business transformation efforts.” 

Survey respondents identified the benefits of mutual empathy between leaders and employees as being: 

  • Efficiency (87%) 
  • Creativity (87%) 
  • Innovation (86%) 
  • Company revenue (81%) 



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