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How about a little empathy?

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Workplace conflict usually occurs because one person harms another in any number of ways, including by making inappropriate remarks, having unrealistic expectations, bullying or taking credit for someone else’s work. Such conflicts have the potential to do permanent damage to relationships and careers.

Phyllis Korkki writes in The New York Times that studies by Gabrielle S. Adams, an assistant professor at the London Business School and a visiting fellow at Harvard University, indicate empathy and forgiveness can play an important role in resolving workplace conflicts.

In many instances the transgressor intends no harm and feels guilty, while the person who is harmed often believes it’s intentional, Adams found. Frequently, those who inflict harm on another want to be forgiven.

People tend to have different interpretations of conflict events as well as different interpretations of each other’s intentions. In Adams’ studies, she asked victims to consider what it would be like to be the transgressor; and the misinterpretations were reduced, showing the important role that empathy plays in conflict resolution. Adams pointed out that many people can name a time they were bullied; but few will say they have ever bullied another person, which shows how differently people view the same situation.

Empathy and forgiveness can promote conflict resolution if both parties come to an understanding about what took place and the transgressor honestly wants forgiveness. If both people can put themselves in each other’s shoes and offer forgiveness, it will help both parties move on, Adams says.

— Adapted from “Conflict at Work? Empathy Can Smooth Ruffled Feathers,” Phyllis Korkki, The New York Times.

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