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« TRANSITIONING THE CULTURE WITH GEN X TAKING THE LEAD | Main | SHOULD LACK OF SUCCESSION/TRANSITIONING PLANNING BE KEEPING YOU UP AT NIGHT? »

EMPATHY IN THE WORKPLACE

I was recently asked to give my opinion about the findings of a University of Michigan study reported in ScienceDaily(May 29, 2010) concluding that American college students don't have as much empathy as students before 2000 did. The series of 72 studies was conducted between 1979 and 2009. Did the findings ring true? What might be the reasons for the notable decrease in empathy? Here are my thoughts.

My personal experience with the college students I know and/or mentor is not the same as the study’s findings, but my pool is much smaller, so I have no scientific basis upon which to refute the findings. As a workplace inter-generational relations expert, I mostly deal with Gen Yers already out of school. I think many of them get an undeserved negative reputation. I have found them to be eager to learn, open, hardworking, ambitious and fun in general.

 

My speculation concerning the lack of empathy shown would be a sort of numbness from the trauma of 9/11 at an impressionable age (yes, I’m a New Yorker) and being served a constant menu of violence in media of all sorts. (I would say these factors influence the younger Gen Xers, say under age 35, as well.)  Also, the pressure in school and to get into schools and to deal with constant messaging from many sources has left many of them with little time to reflect outside of themselves. Yet, Gen Yers are big into community service and concern for social problems, which indicates empathy.

 

The study findings lead me to ask these questions:

  • What does this lack of empathy finding mean for their relations with colleagues in the workplace?
  • Will they be willng to pitch in and compensate for colleagues who need flexible time off?
  • Will they continue to collaborate if they don’t get as much recognition as they want and somebody else does get the recognition?
  • Will they have the necessary empathy for clients and customers to provide the outstanding service that is demanded in these competitive times to succeed in business?

 These are crucial business questions, and we need to instill the importance of empathy.

 

Phyllis Weiss Haserot     www.pdcounsel.com  

 

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