Does Your Boss Have Empathy?
3 levels of empathy…which one does your boss have?
Fiona was Corrie’s manager at a branch of a large financial institution that had branches across the U.S. Europe and Asia. They had recently come up with a new process that
Fiona was hoping that the organization would adopt throughout their operations. As Corrie was instrumental in developing the process and was a recognized expert in her branch on the topic, Fiona decided she would be the natural choice to present to the annual meeting of the U.S. division. While Corrie was very knowledgeable, she was somewhat of an introvert and not comfortable speaking to large numbers of people. The annual meeting would have up to 400 employees from various levels from all across the country. She meets with Fiona and discusses her concerns and anxieties concerning the presentation with her.
Corrie: “I’m not really good with talking to a lot of people. I get really nervous and have trouble concentrating on what I have to say. I wish someone else could do the presentation.” Below are 3 examples of how Fiona could have responded, indicating 3 levels of empathy:
Fiona: “You’ll do fine. There’s nothing to it. You know this stuff better than anyone else around here.”
In this response Fiona showed a complete lack of empathy. She failed to even acknowledge Corrie’s anxiety over the presentation which would be the first basic step towards working towards a solution with her. Instead she dismissed Corrie’s feelings entirely leaving Corrie even more anxious and feeling completely unsupported and misunderstood. It has been reported that public speaking is one of the greatest fears that people have, even greater than dying. Jerry Seinfeld joked that at a funeral most people would sooner be in the casket than have to give the eulogy. Fiona should have been aware that Corrie’s fear was very real and normal. Corrie was an excellent employee who was not known for coming up with excuses and trivial complaints, therefore Fiona should have taken her concerns much more seriously.
Fiona: “Lots of people have a fear of public speaking. I used to until I went to Toastmasters. Now I’m okay, even though I get a little nervous. There’s nothing wrong with being a little nervous. You know your stuff well, so you’ll be okay. “
In the second response Fiona at least acknowledged Corrie’s anxiety. She did not address it, however, only speaking about it in general terms and talking about her own experience. She did not invite Corrie to help her look for ways to lesson her anxiety. As a result Corrie still feels that her concerns were not taken seriously and addressed in a caring manner.
Fiona: “Sounds like you are feeling really stressed over the thought of having to do this presentation.”
Corrie: “Yeah, I get knots in my stomach and tongue tied when I have to talk in front of a group of people.”