Empathy at Work

In today's high pressure world, where most people are time poor, the need for managers to show empathy, to understand, sympathise and display compassion with all members of the team is absolutely vital.

In today's fast paced and hyper competitive world of business, managers are invariably caught up in the relentless efforts to produce results, which in most cases mean achieving sales or profit targets. Given that the business world is being driven by the need for continuous growth, managers and executives face increasing pressures to produce results that exceed those of the previous year.

Whilst that is desirable, managers need to be careful that they are not caught in the mindset that ends justify the means and look only at narrow financially-driven results. This kind of behaviour, which may be driven by incentive schemes that are too short term, can mean that managers push their staff too hard, oblivious to the needs and wants of their team members.

All members of staff, irrespective of their standing in the organisational chart, are different from each other in their backgrounds and character make-ups.

They carry with them personal baggage in the form of personal, family, financial and medical issues, not to mention the effects of daily mood swings. These all impact on performance.

In today's high pressure world, where most people are time poor, the need for managers to show empathy, to understand, sympathise and display compassion with all members of the team is absolutely vital.

Treating team members as real human beings, and not just cogs in a wheel, is vital in building and maintaining a team that is productive, and also resilient in the face of unexpected adversity. Whilst it is easy to get caught up in the daily humdrum of work, managers need to step back and carefully observe the body language, the nuances and the titbits of information that indicate that all is not well with particular staff members.

Managers don't have to be best friends or confidants to their staff, but they need to clearly and consistently show that they care about the well being of their team members – not only by words but by concrete action.

Managers need to show that they are real, authentic human beings like the rest of their team, equally fraught with challenging lives at and outside work, and who like their staff and colleagues at work, make mistakes, stumble, and fall from time to time. In an organisation replete with empathetic and altruistic human beings, the helping hand is always available.

Submitted by Dr Adrian Zammit FAIM