Being empathetic is considered by most as a positive personality trait. But is being nice and understanding hurting your progression in the workforce?
According to experts, Robert Stern and Diane Divecha, being too empathetic and emotional at work can distort your judgement, because you are too concerned with protecting your team and therefore hold yourself back from climbing the ladder.
The topic has been discussed in the past, but resurfaced when a Google engineer was fired after writing a memo about women being biologically unsuitable for the tech industry because they focus on “feelings and aesthetics” rather than ideas and have “a stronger interest in people rather than things”.
It might be important, and maybe even necessary, to sometimes be able to turn off your empathetic instincts. Not only to avoid people scamming you or hurting your feelings, but also to be able to put yourself first. According to The Australian Financial Review you sometimes need to make decisions that will affect other people negatively to get ahead at work. You need to put business before feelings.
On the contrary, The New York Times is suggesting interpersonal skills such as collaboration, communication, empathy and emotional intelligence are becoming increasingly essential for jobs in growing industries like computer science, financial management and nursing.
The lack of these skills can lead to dysfunctional teams and low quality end products. People are different, and to be able to understand this and be empathetic to this is critical when recognising the wants and desires of clients and consumers.
The level of empathy you should demonstrate in the workplace depends not only on the industry or position you are in, but also on your personal morals and priorities. There is no set answer, but it is crucial to find the right balance between prioritising yourself and caring for others. Stern and Divecha summed it up nicely by stating, “The art of empathy requires paying attention to another’s needs without sacrificing one’s own.”