I just finished reading a blog post by HR Bartender asking whether our society has lost our empathetic side and what we can do to work toward getting it back.
I met with a client today to discuss the dismissal of two charges of discrimination we defended on its behalf, charges which arose because the employee believed she was treated "unfairly" in a couple of situations. As the agency investigation revealed, this client went far beyond the call of duty in dealing with the employee's issues. The employee was simply dissatisfied with the result.
I think HR Bartender is on to something--we probably have lost our ability to empathize, in part because of the moving parts on both sides of the situation that faced my client. The phrase "no good deed goes unpunished" was uttered from the lips of my client representatives on more than one occasion. In this situation, the employee had lost the ability to empathize with the employer. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. Continuing on that line of thought--the employer, having been rewarded with two charges of discrimination after doing more than it was legally obligated to do, might not respond in such an above-and-beyond way next go-around. You might say my client is losing the desire to empathize.
Those of us on the management side are all too familiar with the employee rights-employer obligations dance steps. If empathy is waning, will we soon find ourselves paired with partners who don't have formal instruction in the dance, where "rights" and "wants" are interchangeable with obligations in the minds of those partners?
The issue is not necessarily squarely rested on the shoulders of the employees. Think about how managers and supervisors are expected to handle situations (remember our talk about how that can diffuse potential lawsuits? If not, go here and here and here.). If they are unable to muster any empathy for the situation, is that a good thing? Nay nay.
Let's all work toward finding our empathy button--so you can push it when necessary (and have it reciprocated).