Empathy Training May Not Be Genuine


We have presented several books over the years that have featured empathy as an important skill for managers to exhibit.  Obviously, the Kouzes and Posner best-seller, Encouraging the Heart (Jossey-Bass, 2003), includes many different references to empathy as a management tool in recognizing and reinforcing employee behavior.

I was interested in a recent syndicated article entitled “The Impact of Empathy,” oirignally writtten by Matthew Gutierrez for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on July 11, 2016.  You can read his article by clicking HERE.

His premise is that companies often benefit when managers receive and use the tools to become more understanding of their direct reports.  He cites an imporant program taken by local YWCA managers, who claim they are more effective after receiving empathy trainilng.  Gutierrez state that about 20 percent of employers offer empathy training for managers, and he provides documentation from Development Dimensions International (DDI), that top-to-bottom, the copmanies perform better with this training, as much as 50% more income per employee.

I love the end, but not the means.  I don’t have a lot of good to say about people who exhibit the skill of empathy, without the underlying heart that contains it.

Any manager can learn a series of statements and questions that show interest in others.  And, there is some likelihood that those behaviors will result in positive outcomes for the employees who receive them.  But for how long?  When does the facade wear off?  How much time will it take for someone who really doesn’t care about another person to finally show true colors?

I’m not too interested in showing anyone how to use a skill such as displaying empathy who does not have cotresponding empathy in the heart.  If you really don’t care, then how better off is anyone, if all you do is fool someone into thinking that you care?

I don’t mind this training for people who really do care, but have trouble expressing it.  That is worthwhile training for them, for it builds proper skills that they need to exhibit.

But, we’ve already got enough problems in the workplace than do add phony skills for phony people to exhibit who really don’t care.  Just be honest – tell us you don’t care, go do your job, and don’t build false hopes and promises by being non-transparent.

What do you think?  Hit reply and let me know.

 

 

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