What does empathy at work look like?
Recently I posted an animated video of a Brene Brown passage on empathy.
The key takeaway for me what this quote: “empathy drives connection, sympathy drives disconnection.”
(Aside: If you haven’t watched the video or seen the TedX talk that made Brown famous, I highly recommend you get on that).
The animation is two friends talking. One is going through something. We’ve all been there. So you already know that when you’re going through something, a good friend gets down in the muck with you until you’re unstuck. An annoying friend is someone who will poke their head in from higher ground and sympathize, but not really connect.
We all need that friend who gets it and isn’t afraid to climb down into that hole with you, because they know they’ve been there too. Love it.
But how does this play out at a place like work, where showing vulnerability is a much trickier business?
One of the benefits having a varied career is that I’ve worked in a slew of different places and seen a lot of things go down. Some of the places I’ve worked had empathy nailed. You could have a bad day or make a mistake, and someone would be right there saying “I’ve so been there and made that mistake. Here’s what to do about it.” When it came to teamwork, they totally got it.
Other workplaces just didn’t get it, and didn’t even seem to want to. Any mistake or flaw would be magnified, written on the wall and replayed for all eternity. People formed cliques so they could rule the roost. These are toxic workplaces. And once you’ve worked at a toxic workplace, you know that it’s something to be avoided at all costs.
Now that classes are nearly finished, it’s time to think about the kind of workplace I’m hoping to find in digital-media-land. I want to use this blog to explore how empathy is playing out where people work.
So stay tuned: there will be insights from thought leaders like Brene Brown and interviews with people working in the digital media biz. There will be people who work in IT, management, design, communications, and boomers, GenXers, millenials and maybe even a post-millenial who wants to send a message to his or her future employers.
Even if you don’t work in digital media, I want to hear about how empathy plays out where you work.
Do you feel like you’re a part of your team? Do you feel excluded? Does your management foster a feeling of value and belonging? How are connections made — by shaming and blaming a common enemy or by listening, understanding and getting to know your co-workers? What’s your definition of being vulnerable at work? Do you have vulnerabilities that you can’t share because you fear discrimination or getting pushed out?
This inquiring mind wants to know :).
I’ll leave you with some wisdom from Calvin & Hobbes.