Friday 13 September 2013

Does empathy ensure we do the right thing?

"To understand someone you need to walk a mile in their moccasins" 

Recent blogs I've written here and on supply management have touched on doing the right thing. On making the right decisions irrespective of the personal impact on yourself. After conversations in the last 48hrs I realise that it's really anonymity, and therefore lack of empathy, that supports the wrong decisions being made.

Earlier in the week, after a very long day that started at 0500, the travel lodge I had booked with called to tell me they were moving me to a different hotel due to an "unexpected maintenance problem" with some rooms. A euphemism I now realise for "we've over booked". Certainly if those tweeting at the time and the 2 others booking in at 0030 as I did, all from different hotels but all given the same excuse, is anything to go by. 

After a delay of an hour to get me to the substitute hotel I was still annoyed the next morning. The receptionist couldn't have been more helpful. Taking it upon herself to book a taxi this morning and arranging for payment before she'd got hold of the original hotel to approve her decision. She understood the issue, made the right decision and acted on it. Excellent customer service. Those making the decisions to over book I'd suggest do that because they don't get to see the consequences of their decisions nor get eye contact with the customers. 

As I was driven towards Kings Cross in the taxi we had occasion to need to be let into a queue of cars and then later to let others in. Eye contact, as anyone in a queue not wanting to let anyone in, is the key. Try not letting someone into a queue in front of you, having got eye contact first, and you'll know what I mean.

Which reminded me of the recent undercover boss here in the UK. In all instances, once the 'boss' experienced firsthand what was happening to those who worked for them, they immediately made changes. Contracts were changed, conditions enhanced, communication improved, opportunities discussed. Fairness and respect that had been conspicuous by their lack were once more regained. 

For me, in all the examples above, the right thing was done because empathy was experienced. 

Do you think it's empathy that triggers human nature every time, and if it is I wonder how we can use this in other situations to ensure the right things gets done? 
  • Paying the living wage - I know watching a friend fail to live without help from others, working 40 hours a week, in conditions that don't meet minimum health and safety standards, has opened my eyes to the necessity for us to mandate its payment. 
  • Truth telling - this blog explains more.
  • Stopping murder in Syria - I know there's not a simple solution and it's not a subject I generally stray into. I can't, however, help but feel if we saw the whites of the eyes of those impacted, or even the light go out in the eyes of those murdered, we'd do something more than we are. 
How do you think we can bring more empathy into the world so 'doing the right thing' becomes the norm?

Alison Smith
inspiring change inside and out

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