Wanted! Nation with empathy!


By Professor Nalin Abeysekera

(This article is based on Speech made at Convocation of National HR academy at BMICH on 15th February 2019)

"There is zero correlation between IQ and emotional empathy... They're controlled by different parts of the brain-Daniel Goleman"

Scenario One (My own Experience) –Leading Insurance company in Sri Lanka-Customer opens the door and comes to the office. But no any salespeople paying attention at the customer. They just concentrate on their work. The customer is wandering here and there.

Scenario Two (Experience of my MBA Student) –Leading vehicle Importer in Sri Lanka. The Salespeople are measuring customers by looking at their appearance, such as dress code. In case such customer/s inquiring for the high-end branded vehicle there is no proper explanation as they(Salespeople) have a preoccupied mindset.

Interesting Observation(Post- incident) – All most all salespeople are in the given scenarios are qualified with at least with Diploma in Management /Sales Management. And more importantly, all of them belong to Generation Y and Z (Born after 1977)

What is the problem?

There could be many reasons with many social interpretations for this . However, we should understand the beauty of multiple realities for managerial implications.

What "We" think as Soft Skills

In Sri Lanka, we can witness many people talking about soft skills. section of people criticizing about the output of National Universities claiming that most of the graduates do not have "Soft Skills". The same set of people define "soft skills " as "Language competency and IT skills". But there is a problem of "Big Picture"

What "World" thinks as Soft Skills(Big Picture)

According to Oxford reference "soft skills are competencies that employees possess associated with activities such as customer handling, communication, problem-solving, and teamworking. According to various surveys, these soft skills are considered by employers to be of very high importance and (in the UK) sadly lacking amongst new recruits"

Generation Y and Emotional Intelligence

According to Yesnick (2016) The Pew Research Center conducted a survey of 1,021 respondents whereby 42 percent responded that by 2020 Gen Y and Gen Z will "...spend most of their energy sharing social messages, being entertained and distracted away from deep engagement with people and knowledge. They'll lack deep thinking capabilities and face-to-face social skills." (Business Insider, 3/28/12).

Skill of paying attention

This is really important. As Shari Turkel (author of Bringing Back Conversation in the Digital Age,) argued you can observe a 40 percent decline in empathy of people in their 20s.Refer below remarks of Stanley(2017)

"…..It’s ironic because our incessant need to connect with everything and everyone also makes us lose our ability to connect with the most important thing — people. Colleagues go out to lunch to build relationships, which requires paying attention. But once seated, individuals set their phones on the table. The message is clear and the rules established. Relationship building and paying attention to each other will happen until one of us gets a phone call or text. How many of you are tired of competing for attention with a smartphone? (And why is it called a smartphone when it creates such stupid behaviors?)

What we need to do

Emotional intelligence with common sense is important for everything . But there is a problem with the younger generation. They are more demanding but do not like to reflect! Anyway Yesnick(2016) proposed Employer to identify a mentor for a new Gen Y or Z employee during on-boarding. Programmes embodying the four components of emotional intelligence give the mentor opportunities to model self-awareness, social awareness, self-management and relationship management.

Mediation and Empathy

As reports "The research, published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, showed that a meditation programme called Cognitively-Based Compassion Training was able to improve people's ability to read emotional expressions on others' faces. Researchers said the meditation programme is based on ancient Buddhist practices, but this particular program was secular. It included mindfulness techniques, but mainly involved training people to think about their relationships with other people". Compassion meditation involves silently repeating certain phrases that express the intention to move from judgment to caring, from isolation to connection, from indifference or dislike to understanding(

Back to Scenario one and two

We should always be concerned about the latest development in the globe and able to read the "Big Picture" Just Training people in terms of "Agenda item in Company Report " or to "Show we have spent the budgeted amount" is not the solution. In order to build the nation and to have sustainable economic growth, all citizens and organizations needs to have their own plan with empathy. Simply, we(employees as well as organizations) need empathy! Empathy for people and empathy for the nation!

"In whom there is no sympathy for living beings: know him as an outcast." The Buddha"

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