The Importance of Empathy in The Workforce
Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Alfred Adler once said, “Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another.” As someone who considers themselves to be very in touch with their emotions, this quote perfectly describes the way I feel about relationships. I place a great value on being empathetic, being open to feeling for others and understanding them because I would want the same for myself. However, when I started my first job at the age of 17, I struggled to find this in the workplace.
Like many others, I started my first job position as a crew member at a fast-food franchise. This is typically the place that features in most “work horror stories.” One of the main topics usually centres around the interactions with co-workers and management. For me, that was definitely the case. As someone whose emotions play a significant role in their personality, I struggled to adjust to the work environment.
While the fast-paced environment and customer experiences provided their own challenges, one of the hardest challenges was to do with communicating with crew and management. While I found myself valuing and understanding others in the workforce, a lot of the staff were more strictly focused on task completion. Therefore, often, the working environment lacked healthy interactions.
One memory that I have kept until this day was the sight of a poor 15-year-old who was struggling at a closing shift due to the amount of pressure she was under. However, what stands out the most is the lack of empathy that was showcased by management and crew. Not once did anyone stop to ask “How are you doing?” or “You look like you need help with that?”
Working in an environment with lots of pressure means that time for chit-chat and questions might seem inappropriate, however, I believe that empathy should be appropriate at any time. After all, we were all working as a team and experiencing the same challenges, so why shouldn’t empathy be more valued?
This was also seen outside the physical working space. I remember witnessing multiple autocratic messages on the workplace group chat. These messages consisted of pointing fingers at crew who made simple mistakes or accidents. While the concepts of accountability and feedback are significant, I believe that it is universally agreed upon that there is a right way to showcase such concepts.
Holding someone accountable and offering feedback can be done in appropriate ways that demonstrate a sense of understanding. Consider asking kindly worded questions such as:
- “I noticed you weren’t your best self today. Do you want to talk about it?”
- “Would you like me to teach you the right way to complete this task?”
- “Would you like assistance with that next time?”
These questions can have a significant impact on how a message is received. We are all human after all. We share the universal concept of emotions. We likely all know what it’s like to feel pressure or be under the weather in the workplace. So why can’t we be kinder to each other?
Whoever you are and wherever you work, don’t be afraid to let your empathy guide you. All it takes is to place yourself in the shoes of another and ask yourself how you would want to be treated in this situation. The need to be treated with empathy is universal, no matter how different we think we are from another individual.
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash
Aleen Jameel is a first-year Bachelor of Business student looking forward to majoring in marketing. Her love of business is highlighted through her position as a member of the Business Student Advisory Group. She is also an aspiring writer, looking into sharing more about mental health.