Dr. Roman Krznaric, writing for the Greater Good Science Center at UC-Berkeley, marshals the latest research on empathy to identify the “Six Habits of Highly Empathic People.” Here’s the list, and the full article explains what’s behind each:
- “Habit 1: Cultivate curiosity about strangers”
- “Habit 2: Challenge prejudices and discover commonalities”
- “Habit 3: Try another person’s life”
- “Habit 4: Listen hard — and open up”
- “Habit 5: Inspire mass action and social change”
- “Habit 6: Develop an ambitious imagination”
Application to the workplace
Do these habits lend themselves easily to the typical workplace? Many readers who found this blog because of unpleasant or abusive experiences at work might lean toward the negative, and I have to say that I share some of that pessimism.
Furthermore, there’s empirical data to support those negative impressions of the emotional state of the workplace. A recent Gallup Poll indicated that 70 percent of American workers “have ‘checked out’ at work or are ‘actively disengaged,'” as Ricardo Lopez reports for the Los Angeles Times. These high percentages of emotional disengagement have been pretty consistent since 2000.
Granted, empathy does not necessarily equate to engagement in one’s job, and vice versa, but I’d be surprised if there’s not a strong correlation. It follows that fostering a workplace full of people who cultivate those habits is a worthy ideal. While I can imagine even the best of employers getting a little nervous about Habit 5(!), the other five seem completely compatible with a productive and high-morale workforce.
And what about those employers who don’t get it? Well then, maybe some of that “mass action and social change” is exactly what the doctor ordered. Surely that is a fitting thought as we approach Labor Day 2013.
Roman Krznaric is the author of How to Find Fulfilling Work (2012), which I reviewed earlier this year.