Empathy

The April blog Workplace cynicism – do we like it or loathe it? asked if workplace cynicism was bad, and if it could be harnessed for good.

Cynicism: Good or bad?
Let’s start with the good or bad question. I think it’s bad, because it’s often a symptom of a bigger, underlying problem: a lack of empathy. The blog suggested some cynics have been shaped by experiences such as multiple unsuccessful or poorly communicated attempts at improvement. That’s quite possible.

My guess is some managers may not fully appreciate how change affects staff and clients, and may even forget they are dealing with people rather than figures or processes. This happens because they are too focussed on how much time or money can be saved in their drive for efficiency.

Equally, those on the receiving end may dismiss changes as cost-cutting exercises, or think managers are micro managing or simply trying to make themselves look good. They may not think about whether managers have much choice because of external pressures to improve profits or to keep abreast of social and technological changes.

Cynicism as a force for good?
The blog’s right, TCs can help by “… making sure that everyone knows what change is required, what success will look like, and what success has actually been achieved.” But is it just as important to encourage empathy? For example, should we try to get managers to think about those affected, communicate why change is required, and show that they realise it may not be easy for those affected? Should we encourage staff to think about the pressure managers face?

So can cynicism be used for good? Perhaps, if it stems from a lack of empathy, and if dealing with it encourages players to think about other parties. And seeing cynics won over might persuade others that the change isn’t so bad after all.

Empathy as an essential technical communicator trait
Going off on the empathy tangent: on the What skill sets do we need? page, the TCANZ website includes listening effectively, respecting the opinions of others, and tailoring information for the audience. I believe a pre-requisite for all that is having empathy, a trait that is seldom discussed and promoted. Without it, it’ll be difficult to get the most out of SMEs or fully consider the needs of the audience.

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One thought on “Empathy

  1. Yes, but surely it’s the duty of the HR manager to ensure there’s proper commuinication between management and the rest of the team? Especially in regard to managing changes within the organisation and ensuring the entire thing goes smoothly, or managing “difficult” team members that prove themselves to be belligerently uncooperative to the point of creating a toxic working environment?

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