Empathy is perceived, especially in tough guy-tough gal cultures, as a sign of weakness.  Empathy is not often co-related with strong business results, particularly in construction, engineering, project management, manufacturing and other hard-nosed places.

But we now know that empathy, delivered in the right dose, delivers solid business outcomes.  Empathy can drive retention, help you find quality workers and even support building a strong safety culture.

Empathy is more important now than ever, with so many people experiencing high levels of stress and so many companies struggling to find workers.

According to a recent report by Catalyst, empathy leads to strong results in retention, engagement and innovation.

But why is it so hard to get empathy right, especially for us men? Consider these three reasons:

  1. We men are uniquely hard-wired by our stone age brains to defend our tribe, fight when necessary and hunt in order to survive. Empathy was not a requirement for killing a saber-toothed tiger.
  2. We are socialized to not pay much attention to feelings, ours or others.  This can lead to relational problems, especially when others are going through hard times, like losing a beloved dog, or going through a divorce.  This is made worse by leaders with high rank, who often score extra low on empathy, partly because they are working so hard to get so much done.
  3. At work, especially in the construction companies where I work, when men finally get to empathy, they fear they will buckle completely, and sometimes they do. For a fine, dramatic example of that, see this funny 2 min video of a construction foreman attempting to empathize with another whose dog died.

I believe men can feel plenty of empathy, we just have a hard time expressing it some days.  So, the next time you see a guy struggling to express empathy, give him a break and ask if he needs a hug.

You gotta watch this video…  If some at your company are struggling to show empathy, especially between the generations or even with customers, then reach out today at tom@eschconsulting.com.