Treat Your Internal Customers With Empathy Lest You Lose Them

These unprecedented times have really helped us to differentiate between chalk and cheese. Several people working across sectors including professors from major universities have shared with me on how they have been overloaded with an enormous workload when they are working from home (WFH). A countless number of people told me that earlier they would go to work or college by 8 a.m. and come back by 6 p.m. but now they are bombarded with work from 7 a.m. till midnight. Many a time people are called for meetings which were absolutely unnecessary and redundant. Some even went to the extent of saying that this was just to see that they are occupied with official activities or not. This is in sharp contrast to what we have seen in some of the mature companies. This goes on to show a lack of empathy.
It is important for business leaders to understand that there are several challenges associated with the concept of ‘WFH’. People living in smaller homes with kids at home with both husband and wife working have several challenges and there have been business leaders who have been oblivious to acknowledge and understand the pains of such people. Instead of mitigating the pain, there have been instances of them being threatened with things such as being terminated if they are unable to attend every meeting. These are the organizations which could lose the loyalty of employees. Please understand the way we treat our employees who are our internal customers would directly impact the way they would serve the external customers.

Empathy is to put yourself into the shoes of the other person and then respond. I would always quote that, “Don’t do unto others what you would not like to be done unto you.”

In the new-normal the one powerful phrase that leaders would have to constantly use is, “It is ok.” I am not asking leaders to tolerate mediocrity but please understand the people’s emotions. There is already fear, uncertainty and panic among people and it is the responsibility of leaders to practice empathy and not being apathetic to the concerns of people.

In contrast we also heard some of the middle-level leaders saying that they have seen managers who were highly bureaucratic & autocratic in the past turning more humane. They used to tell their middle-level leaders that they needed this report by 5 p.m. and get it done but now they are asking them when it would be comfortable for the junior to complete by providing the context of the situation and waiting for an answer. There seems to be a dramatic change in the tone and tenor of some of the so-called erstwhile autocratic leaders. The new norm for the leaders is to be more empathetic in their communication by understanding the other person’s point of view, asking more questions and displaying human touch in their behavior. Most business leaders need to learn from some of the large companies who have trained their leaders to practice empathy in every conversation. They have been explicitly asked to show empathy and reasonableness on the shape and timing of deliverables by considering the unique personal circumstances that employees are working under. In the words of Santosh, Director of Microsoft, “When we evaluate an individual’s business impact and corresponding performance rewards, we are explicitly asked to consider the extraordinary circumstances and apply judgment in our recommendations and I have personally done that to my team.” Empathy is, to be honest in your feelings (not just words), being transparent and have the ability to move into action.
JVC Sreeram
Author of “No Reference Point” 

The Ultimate Handbook to succeed amidst a Global Pandemonium & Beyond
P.S. More details on Empathy is being covered in the book which is being published on August 24th 2020.
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