Editorial – Can a Person Be Too Empathetic?

Editorial – Can a Person Be Too Empathetic?

Are you one of those people who is good at putting themselves in someone else’s shoes? Listening to them, really “connecting” to their feelings and energy? If you answered yes to these questions, you’re an empathetic person.

And you’re not alone.

Empathy is a quality often attributed to female leaders, and it’s certainly one of the greatest gains that companies have made by having more women in top leadership roles.

Nowadays, empathy is not just a “nice” strength to have, it’s “essential to success in the future of work.” At least, this is what is suggested in the most recent study by Catalyst, an organization dedicated to improving the working situation of women.

The benefits of empathy are so powerful that employees with highly empathetic senior leaders are more innovative (61%) and engaged (76%) at work than those with less empathetic leaders. This “super ability” significantly improves productivity in companies.

While Fast Company was already suggesting, back in 2012, that empathy was “the most powerful leadership tool,” today it turns out empathy is the way to counter widespread burnout — felt by a great many women — and to protect employees in times of crisis. Wonderful, isn’t it?

Yes, but watch out: empathy has a sneaky downside, or at least it does when only one segment of the workforce shows it. While empathy may be a solution to many of the world’s ills, women (women managers especially) burn out when they’re the only ones putting it into practice.

This troubling fact prompts us to ask: is it really “your” job to always put yourself in the shoes of others?

With one in three women now considering leaving the workforce, it is urgent for managers at every level to better understand women’s complex reality and recognize what is at stake for them, even the issues that go beyond the professional context.

So, how about forwarding this editorial to your manager now and telling them about an act of empathy on their part that you appreciated?

The A Effect team

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