rene van hulst


This article was written on 06 Jan 2016, and is filled under Opinion, Vision.

Year of empathy

Empathy, a ‘new’ concept, seems to be everywhere these days.

New Year, new ideas, new ways etc. The new, newer newest seems to be the thing of today. Digging a little deeper than you see that people seem to regret the more industrial, intellectual, rational approach humanity has taken the past years. Whether it is due to the influx of refugee’s or simple because the balance needs to slide back to the other extreme, the concept pops up in almost every discussion.

The concept of empathy is something organisations see as well, even to the extent that they incorporate it in their official value statements. Question is will this do the trick?! Will it make the corporate environment more human friendly?!

When people talk about corporate culture, they’re typically referring to cognitive culture: the shared intellectual values, norms, artifacts, and assumptions that serve as a guide for the group to thrive. Cognitive culture sets the tone for how employees think and behave at work—for instance, how customer-focused, innovative, team-oriented, or competitive they are or should be.Cognitive culture is undeniably important to an organization’s success. But it’s only part of the story.

The other critical part is what we call the group’s emotional or affective culture: the shared affective values, norms, artifacts, and assumptions that govern which emotions people have and express at work and which ones they are better off suppressing.

To get a comprehensive read on the affective culture check out the “micromoments” of daily organisational life. Small gestures simply tell more than bold declarations. Equally powerful are facial expressions and body language. And finally office décor and furnishings, too, may suggest what’s expected or appropriate emotionally. Pictures of laughing employees on the wall tell a completely different story that the poster with the 10 not-to-do items.

If we truly want to make 2016 the year of empathy, let’s start small. In each of your own encounters these days can you make a little emphatic difference. No bold things, just simple affective expressions. It might make our world overtime just that tiny bit more pleasurable.

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