Perceptions of Empathy and Opinion Leadership in Organizational Communication

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Simon, Alyssa
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Mount Saint Vincent University
This graduate research project was undertaken with a number of objectives in mind: to define empathy in a communication context; to identify the relationship between opinion leadership and empathy in an organizational context; to identify the role of empathy in organizational communications; to develop a tool to assess perceived online opinion leadership; to develop a tool to measure perceived empathy in online communications; and, to test these tools in organizations to determine reliability and validity while gathering data to answer the proposed research questions. Through a partnership with three distinct organizations, a sequential mixed methods study design was selected involving 18 qualitative, in-depth interviews of organization members followed by a quantitative survey of a larger sample of organization members. Findings suggest that organizations may be considered empathetic if they make an effort to comprehend the experiences, thoughts and emotions, of their stakeholders while still meeting business goals; empathy in organizations has social, strategic and communicative functions, and it is perceived to positively impact opinion leadership of organizations.
Empathy; opinion leadership; empathetic organizations; organizational culture; organizational communication; two-step flow; grounded theory