The Need for Empathy

This employee retention speaker and employee retention author recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Is the Office any Place for Empathy.”  Essentially, it was about a human resource person who was fired because she had too much empathy for people.  I guess anything IS a possibility…but really?  An HR person with TOO MUCH empathy.  Unfortunately, during my career as a human resource leader, I didn’t see enough empathy from leaders in general in organizations.  In fact, many times I saw no empathy at all.  And, it got worse in the years I spent in human resources as we became more cut throat and purely bottom line driven.

When I hear comments like this one in the WSJ it is no wonder that organizations have an issue with employee retention.  We are dealing with people, not machines or with robots.  When you show little or no empathy, people feel like a piece of meat.  When that feeling pervades an organization, how many people will have ANY loyalty towards an employer?  Empathy is part of being human and if that is not going to be the case then perhaps we should rename “human” resources “Number Relations” or “Raw Meat Relations” or some such name.  At least people would know where they stand when they walk into an organization.

If the emerging generation of owners is like the one described in the article, organizations are going to have a real issue improving employee retention.  People, particularly the millennials, expect to be treated with respect, dignity and not to be treated like a number.  If owners and leaders do not get this, they put their organization in peril because when they can’t find enough people to staff their organization they will be out of business.  The millennials will not tolerate being treated like “raw meat.”  They will walk out the door at the drop of a hat if they are treated this way.

At some point, leaders need to recognize that the culture of an organization that has a healthy balance between people and results you will get loyalty as well as results.  It’s easy to lack empathy.  Everything is black and white without empathy, so decisions become easy.  This employee retention trainer was always taught that the world wasn’t black and white.   What will be black and white is that you will have a revolving door of talent if you don’t have empathy.  When that revolving door puts you in a position where you can’t service your customers, you might want to start treating your people with some empathy.

Jeff Kortes

jeff@humanassetmgt.com

Jeff Kortes is an employee retention expert who speaks and conducts workshops regularly in Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Indiana. He draws on his experiences as a human resources professional, father, coach, martial artist and U.S. Army veteran to provide thought-provoking programs that yield results.