Empathy, Schmempathy

When I want a good laugh, I don’t bother looking for “Top 10 Funny Websites.”

I head straight to articles about work.

How can I not laugh when I see a headline like this?


Empathy?  Seriously?  In today’s workplace?

Let’s start with some definitions:

Empathy-definition_02Empathy, noun:  the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Empathize, verb:  to understand and share the feelings of another.

Empathetic, adjective:  showing an ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Today’s workplace is known for:


The author of this article, Neil Senturia, cites a lack-of-empathy story about “Bob,” who had flown to his company’s headquarters for a two-day meeting:

mean-boss-faceAt the last minute, his manager asks Bob to stay over another night, for another big meeting.  Bob says he can’t do that, he has to fly home, his son is sick and wife is out and plans have been made.  The manager throws down the gauntlet and says that if you don’t stay I will fire you. 

Bob goes home and the next day he is fired.

Senturia goes on to say,

Bob is a $250,000 per year big data genius – these guys do not grow on trees.  What was that manager thinking?

Senturia isn’t bemoaning the manager’s lack of empathy with Bob’s dilemma at home.

He’s wondering how the manager could so easily fire a revenue-generating cog in his company’s wheel.

Let’s look at some other examples of company empathy:

Employee to Manager

Manager With Empathy Manager Without Empathy
 intimidated  not_this_crap_again  you're fired
I fell in our parking lot and broke my arm.  Can I leave early? You can still type, right?  And crunch those numbers for me? If you leave early, you’re fired.
I worked through lunch and crunched the numbers you said you needed. I asked for that?  Well, just leave it and I’ll get to it at some point. I didn’t ask for any damn numbers.  Stop wasting my time, or you’re fired.
I really need to go to the Emergency Room and get my arm taken care of. Well, as long as you call in for your meetings and don’t miss any deadlines. If you take unscheduled time off, you’re fired.

Senturia also extensively cites Cris Beam, author of the recent book I Feel You:  The Surprising Power of Extreme Empathy.  Senturia refers to Beam at least twice as “he,” when a glance at the Amazon write-up makes it clear that Beam is female.  Which makes me wonder if Senturia actually read the book, or just walked past it in a bookstore.

And – like a guy could write a book about empathy.

man bored
Oh, look.  Those sandwiches.  Again.

Senturia also cites how he provides “sandwiches from Con Pane Rustic Breads & Café” for his “crew,” like sandwiches are some kind of hallmark for his mastery of empathy.

Sandwiches?  Really?  How about a raise?  Flex time?  Work from home now and then?

How about a damn day off now and then?

So, if you’re looking for empathy I don’t recommend looking for it at work.

Unless your employer has a dictionary.

You can find “empathy” there.

Between “egregious” and “exploitation.”

No use searching under there, folks.  If you’re looking for empathy, try the dictionary.

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