By Eric Mudoga / September 12, 2018

Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another by literally stepping in the person’s shoes, as opposed to sympathy which leans towards feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters.

In an ever competitive and evolving world many organizations are faced with situations of handling inefficiency of employees. Every individual is under pressure to outdo the competition so there is no time to deal with human related situations. This has made companies overlook the importance of expressing empathy to our employees or co-workers.

Recently, I had an interesting experience when I walked in to seek consultancy services from a well-known international firm. At face value the place looked amazing; well organized, well-dressed staff, branding on the wall, it was a sight to marvel at. It did not take long for this ideal picture to crumble in front of me.

I noticed that the office receptionist was under a lot of pressure and was struggling to put up a smile as she gave a well-rehearsed script of customer care questions and answers. I also observed how often the floor manager would walk in and out rapping orders to her, at the same time she handled clients of the company who also addressed her harshly.  Concerned, I decided to stop by her desk and enquire about her day and highlighted how I noticed that she was not looking happy.

It was after some warm persuasion that she opened to me on what was bothering her. I listened. In a matter of 10 minutes, she had resolved to deal with the issues that were bothering her and was determined to have a positive attitude to the situation. She soon lit up and put on a positive expression.

Little known to everyone, her child had been unwell and had kept the household up the whole night. No one seemed to care or want to know what was affecting her. She was concerned about her son’s recovery. Could I resolve the issue? No. I did not even offer solutions just a word of affirmation to keep up her morale.  It was amazing to see how her attitude improved; by just extending a few words of encouragement and giving an assurance that things could get better.

This got me thinking, if managers could take time to express concern and exercise empathy, it would greatly add value to your colleagues and employees and in turn your company.

Related Articles/topics

The Importance of Empathy in the Workplace

Empathy: The Basic Quality Many Leaders Keep Getting Wrong

The Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy


About the author

Eric Mudoga

Eric Mudoga

Eric is involved in developing and coordinating BlueInventure’s internal and external training programs delivered through The SME Business School, BlueInventure’s competency-based training arm.


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