Climbing the corporate ladder seems to require traits of ruthlessness and lack of compassion or empathy for those who are stepped on or crushed on the way to the top. But it isn’t always necessary to hurt others for personal gain. Certainly, being a pushover isn’t going to get you the recognition you desire from the person set to promote someone to the next level. But neither is throwing everyone under the bus just to get what you want.
Empathy means having an understanding of what it’s like to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Atticus Finch, an attorney in Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird regularly taught his children to practice empathy; to have the ability to share in and understand the emotions and feelings of other people. Having empathy is a skill you can practice by looking at this from the perspective of another person.
There are quite a few benefits to developing an empathetic side to your personality. Empathetic people are very effective communicators because they listen very closely to the words of the person they’re talking to. This also makes them a welcome addition to any kind of a group project because they find it easier to create connections with people, thereby securing greater levels of cooperation in seeing the project through to completion.
If you have been ignoring your ability to be empathetic, you may find that your relationships are suffering. Instead of coming home and finding fault with your spouse or partner for undone tasks around the house. Try to look at it from your partner’s perspective. Perhaps the project at work requires your partner to spend long hours at it, coming home after dark, making it impossible to continue the outdoor painting that had begun last weekend. Or your youngest child has been at home sick forcing the child’s mother to work from home and care for the patient all while trying to maintain some control over the household chores.
Let’s get back to the ladder climber at work. An effective manager in today’s world needs to have an excellent understanding of other people, particularly in today’s more globalized economy. A study found that managers who were able to empathize with their people had happier and much more productive employees. In this way, managers create a dream team of people who are motivated, talented, and best of all loyal to them.
The key to being empathetic at work is to find a balance between being a pushover who everyone takes advantage of and being the jerk who intends to get to the top no matter how many women and children he has to walk on to get there. There is a happy medium.