Mending Workplace Relationships by Communicating Empathy

Mending Workplace Relationships by Communicating Empathy

Empathy: Expressing understanding, a sense of concern or interest in another person’s situation without needing to have the same feelings they may be experiencing.

  • Have you complained about your supervisor or co-workers to others without sharing the feedback first with that person?
  • Do you tend to blame others for things that go wrong without looking at what you can do to change the situation?
  • Do you take feedback or constructive criticism personally?
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Dimensions of Identity

Dimensions of Personal Identity in the Workplace

In a training video I used many years ago, an African American man told a group of other men:

When I look into the mirror I see my black face. I cannot change this; this is who I am and I go to the workplace every day with this black face. So, often, people cannot see beyond it.

The man was stating the obvious about his physical appearance, but also pointing out that people may not get to know him more fully if they have immediate thoughts and emotions about his appearance. In fact, this is a reality that many individuals experience in the workplace. In the model below, Dimensions of Personal Identity (Arredondo, 2017; Arredondo & Glauner, 1992),  I propose intersecting dimensions of identity. While the ‘A’ dimensions are the more visible, dimensions ‘B’ and ‘C’ are more invisible, yet very much part of an individual.

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Workplace Bullying

Bullying in the Workplace: An Unfortunate Reality

Bullying in schools continues to receive deserved and extensive attention. Originally, the focus was on playground and hallway behavior with individuals or groups ganging up on an individual perceived to be weaker, different, or otherwise, a good target for aggression. Boy-on-boy violence today continues to be more commonplace.

The workplace, the setting where individuals go daily to “make a living,” advance their career, and to otherwise contribute to an organization’s mission and bottom line, is a site of daily bullying to both men and women alike.

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Gender Microaggressions at Work: The Visible and Invisible

At work, this guy is always eyeing me up and down; it makes me feel awful.

During our team meetings, one guy invariably interrupts and talks over all of the women, even the team leader; why doesn’t someone call him out?

I shared with my female colleague that her jokes about women were creating an unhealthy dynamic in the department; she told me I was being too sensitive and should join the #metoo movement.

Gender Microaggressions

Gender microaggressions are defined as brief and everyday verbal and nonverbal behaviors and environmental conditions that communicate demeaning, hostile, and otherwise sexist insults towards women (Nadal, 2010). Nadal also describes three types of gender microaggressions:

  • Gender microassault: Blatant sexism, verbal, nonverbal, and behavioral. For example, verbal demeaning by calling a woman a “bitch” or a “whore.”
  • Gender microinsults: Often unintentional behaviors and statements that still convey negative messages about women. For example, in professional association meetings or classrooms, the convener may call primarily on men although women are raising their hand to speak.
  • Gender microinvalidation: This takes many forms, from exclusion from an activity because of a women’s sex, negating a woman’s ideas with jest, and ignoring a woman in the room of all men, even though she is a co-worker.

Swim, Hyers, Cohen, and Ferguson (2001) also calls these behaviors “everyday sexism” because they occur so often that they then become taken for granted as typical in that setting. We may all be in settings where everyday sexism is ongoing yet fail to notice but make attributions such as: That’s just John, being John; don’t take him seriously; or Carl is basically a good guy, just from an older generation, calling you sweetheart is not a big deal.

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Leading Change in Times of Change

Leading Change in Times of Change

Engaging emotional IQ is essential in classrooms and the workplace during these times of change. In these settings people come together from different dimensions of personal identity, cultural roots, geographic locations and political preferences. Disappointment for some is jubilation for others and this cannot go unnoticed by business and academic leaders. Responsive leaders know these differing sentiments are being felt and expressed, often causing tensions and hurtful exchanges.

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