Anyone Thinking About Tolerance and Empathy in the Workplace?
This was particularly problematic because the client who determined the need for the workshop was the head of an advertising group and these young executives were expected to manage their external clients and develop long-standing business and professional relationships. Service industries rely upon relationships both for in-personal and digital connection. We've found that many millennials and the generation following behind them lack these simple interpersonal skills. While they may excel at utilizing the latest social media platforms, they're lacking in basic human interactive skills — and this impacts the work environment. In an earlier article, we discussed the need for a multigenerational work force. Operating from two distinct and separate communication “platforms” ensures the failure of any cultural and generational melding.
Debate, Not Dogma
Our last point relates directly to this interpersonal skills deficiency. So many individuals now rely on technology, tend to communicate almost exclusively using digital means and believe they can find a site to post almost any opinion. Lacking extensive experience and basic “practice” outside of family and friends, where is the pace of human debate? It's not the fault of any one group or any single generation; it's the almost entropic way in which generations interact (or don’t) and how acceptable misunderstanding has become.
We've found that the healthy debate about ideas and points-of-view have diminished significantly. People tend to express opinions via social media and aren't interested or refuse to consider opposite points of view. We're all beginning to live in silos and, if we're not careful, will exchange the verbal for the written, and the understood for the possibly (and often) misunderstood. How many people don’t realize their tone or the impact of their words when there's no direct line of site of the recipient? Far too many and the number is growing.
We began this article with the notion that information is power. We believe this and believe that the American workforce has always been built on a platform of diversity of ideas and beliefs as well as the ability to argue and find compromise. We argue that differing points of view and healthy debate are critical to human exchange. However, there are rules of engagement and there's some need for this type of guidance (or guard rails).
Every facet of life, including our work experiences, depends on successful human interactions. This includes tech-driven, as well as human or face-to-face exchanges. Manners, respect, tolerance and empathy help set the tone for effective communication. Intolerance, dogma and self-absorption lead to misunderstandings and potential breakdowns in the chain of understanding and partnership. One can create the most innovative product, but without the ability to understand, attract and sell to a customer, that product is irrelevant. And that product maybe an idea, gadget or belief.
Empathy matters. Just look at the explosion of research in the emotional intelligence area over the past few years. Many studies argue that empathy is a critical skill for effective leadership. We agree with this and argue that effective communication is related to an empathic leadership style. Understanding and “practicing” the human dynamic remains critical to the success of any organization. We have an obligation to “teach” our tech-driven populations about human interactions. We're also responsible for preserving civility, and evolve that concept as we change our styles and types of communication. This is necessary in every facet of our lives. And if we don’t start to recognize what' happening, we may face more serious obstacles to getting things done in the future and to achieving as a whole, rather than in parts.