Written by Roxanne Brown
Empathy became a popular word to use at work a few years ago. Have you thought about it lately?
I admit I can be a bit jaded about words that become popular in the workplace because I’ve seen them enter the vernacular with good intention, then end up being meaningless or used to appear informed. Sadly, they can become another source for breeding employee cynicism and even weaponized. Adding to a kind of workplace blather.
The word "vulnerable" has been through this cycle, ironically. And, so has the phrase “failing fast”. It sounds great but talking about it without examining the lack of safety (in the practices that a culture values) just grows more cognitive dissonance which subtracts time and energy from creating value, the purpose of the company.
So, have you thought about empathy lately?
Take a look at these synonyms for empathy:
What do these words mean to you now? Do you have more of this at work? Less? How do they show up at work? Which are more important to you now?
Why would you give some thought to this? Because we’re noticing compassion everywhere, especially as people are…
...forced to integrate their life and work.
...confronted with things they don’t like about themselves.
...noticing what relationships and interactions they miss and finding ways to stay connected.
...rediscovering their home and projects they can get into.
...concerned for their own safety, the safety of the ones they love and people everywhere; maybe losing someone they love.
This is a cocktail of emotions we’ve all experienced in the past but are experiencing in new ways now. Thinking about empathy now could be useful because you could learn and own the concept for yourself. Rather than speaking about it in ways that might sound superficial, you could internalize it now using this unusual, remarkable experience as your learning laboratory. Perhaps in the future, this could be how you approach new words that make their way into the language of work. Real personal reflection putting a dent in workplace blather and increasing authenticity in workplace conversations, an authenticity people crave. How great would that be?