Money Matters

Power of empathy

Money Matters
By Sirajuddin Aziz
Mon, 03, 20

The thoughts that follow in this piece has been triggered by what I recently read in a post on a social media site. Amongst other things, the writer remarked, that she is a single mother with a three year old daughter with a host of other responsibilities. She wrote, today I resigned from my dream job; a job that meant to her, a handsome package in one of the well known and renowned organisation. “I decided to leave”, she commented, “because of my supervisor”. I was stunned at the clarity this young lady possessed; she is very clear in her remarks, I thought - she wasn’t wanting to leave the organisation but was quitting because of a co-worker, who also happened to be her supervisor. She gave no further reason for her drastic action. This unfortunately, across industries, is a major reason for attrition of quality staff, which because of very good reasons, is rarely mentioned in the exit interviews and hence doesn’t get on to the radar of oversight by either the CEO or the Board.

The thoughts that follow in this piece has been triggered by what I recently read in a post on a social media site. Amongst other things, the writer remarked, that she is a single mother with a three year old daughter with a host of other responsibilities. She wrote, today I resigned from my dream job; a job that meant to her, a handsome package in one of the well known and renowned organisation. “I decided to leave”, she commented, “because of my supervisor”. I was stunned at the clarity this young lady possessed; she is very clear in her remarks, I thought - she wasn’t wanting to leave the organisation but was quitting because of a co-worker, who also happened to be her supervisor. She gave no further reason for her drastic action. This unfortunately, across industries, is a major reason for attrition of quality staff, which because of very good reasons, is rarely mentioned in the exit interviews and hence doesn’t get on to the radar of oversight by either the CEO or the Board.

According to a study 98 percent of employees say they plan to “get even” with their organisations and 94 percent say they “get even” with their offenders - supervisors/managers.

In the milieu of competition to do better; to surpass business budgets, to excel, to be recognised and to be different from others, many managers start to loose touch with the human quotient. Some of them are so obsessed of their own success, that they in fact do not even know what they dis-possess themselves of! These types are robots, devoid of human touch. Sensitiveness, in a manager, changes his countenance and behavior, either for something good or evil. If the manager is sensitive to pursue the later, obviously, the behavior towards the team mates at best, would be to demean them or even worse, instill a sense of fear and insecurity. In matters of dealing with colleagues, outside the framework of the job description, the heart and mind, must be glued to each other. The lack of sensitivity to do good is indicative that reason is the major weapon of the manager, who conveniently forgets that reason relates to a minuscule part of our existence; while the major part of the persona is fuelled by feelings, emotions and passions; which again are irrespective of whether they are true or false; good or bad. I personally consider those manager, whose hearts are live and wise, to be the true vicegerents of the Divinity.

SRK’s(initials are manufactured) mother passed away after a agonising battle with the dreaded cancer - the run up from discovery of the ailment to the final resting place, devastated him and his family. There were several who mourned, who offered sympathies and said words of solace, during and after the last rites. However, after many months, SRK, confided in his supervisor, that it hurts him, that their CEO did not even offer a single word of comfort. It was after several weeks of the tragedy, he bumped into the CEO in the corridor, where while rushing to the rest room, he said, “Hey! how are the business numbers looking for this quarter and ya! Hey! sorry to learn , you lost your mother”.

SRK, has since then been nurturing this “insensitivity” of his boss, which I am sure will lead him to do exactly what the lady referred to in earlier part of this piece, did. Leave the man, not the organisation.

In case of bereavement in the family of a colleague, the supervisor must rush to offer assistance and condolences. Empathy is the noblest weapon to conquer hearts, with all the sincerity attending to this emotion, of not mere colleagues, but of foes, if any. In return, it is but natural to receive, the individual’s undiluted, unalloyed and dedicated cooperation. Empathy comes of will. It cannot be faked.

Inspiration to provoke goodness is a uniquely irrefutable quality of a sensitive manager. Those who use reasoning alone to arrive at an emotional decision are mostly bulls in a china shop; disastrous in the management of human resources. Whilst those who take the path of emotions to arrive at a reason, invariably are great team makers, manager and leaders.

A young officer, once came into my office and lodged his feelings with me about an incident, he had endured, a week before. This officer went to his supervisor and said, “Can I have a half-day off today”, allowing me to go see off my daughter, who is leaving for overseas to join her husband? ” The supervisor gave him a stare and blurted, what? With so much happening , how do you even have the guts to ask for this favor - No, was his last reply.

Only a few days later, this very officer was called to the supervisor’s cabin, where he said, “I expect you to complete the following tasks by tomorrow, if there is anything you need to ask, do so today…. and yes, I forgot to mention, “I wouldn’t be in the office in the first half, because, I will be going to the airport to receive my ‘little Princess’, who is returning home from Paris after a two month long absence.” The dichotomy of behavior, I thought was not only appalling but outright obnoxious. Where the culture in an organisation is built around, what is good for the goose is not good for the gander; then surely it is a highly “insensitive institution”. The environment will be full of toxicity of ill - will for one and all. Deep sea can be fathomed but not the hearts of men. No manager should ignore that a small gesture of compassion is a long range goodwill missile that descends upon the shores of a living heart. A tear dropped for others is a luster shinning pearl that knows no death, by time.

Caring about colleagues is not meant to take you (managers) on the path of pleasing them. Keep the distinction between caring as an element where you place in the highest esteem the value of your colleagues, who respond with better productivity, and pleasing, where you are not demanding the excellence of output, just because you feel, it may not go down well, with the team or even individually. Nay, pleasing is not to be traded against not being efficient. Infact if a manager fails to keep this distinction between ‘caring’ and ‘pleasing’, the results are mutually fatal.

Incivility in behavior is contagious and usually flows top down. This over time affects business, because no human enjoys the sight of another human being treated insensitively. Clients form a very low impression about such entities. The price of bad behavior and insensitive response is usually very high, both for reasons of loss of business and the high rate of staff turnover. The human side of management cannot be overlooked by leadership. The organisational ethics must be rested on the pivot of civility and caring - this will lead employees towards higher productivity to fulfill not only budget requirements but also in discovering their true potential.

As managers, the need is to plug weakness of the team and to beef up, fortify, strengthening and bring to fore, the hidden talents of the members. No team mate should be compromised; he that falls today must be made to rise tomorrow. If properly harnessed, ambition can be the parent to many virtues, which can come to reflect upon the face! An organisation that has empathy as part of its ingrained cultural value, will have a support for productivity to prevail. There has to be recognition amongst the leadership that the comforter’s head never aches. “Blossoms are scattered by the wind and the wind cares nothing, but the blossom of the heart, no wind can touch(Yoshido Kenko). Empathy is sweet as honey and as invisible as the soul.

The writer is a freelance columnist