Losing Our Empathy: How to Team-Build When People Could Care Less
Blame it on a 24-hour news cycle, social media, corruption, the increased use of profanity, or savage political campaigns, but one thing has become very apparent, we have lost what connects us to each other — our empathy.
Whether we’re arguing about politics or vaccinations, guns, or abortion, or which lives matter most, our society has been unable to successfully cooperate or community-build for quite some time now.
In my line of work, this means more clients calling with concerns about teambuilding and inclusion. Employers are observing increased conflict and lower tolerance. Young employees are less likely to stick around in a setting like this, so the lack of empathy is also contributing to turnover.
Empathy is the ability to emotionally understand what other people feel and how they see things from their point of view. Empathy leads to compassion and the desire to care for or help someone else. And our empathy is currently missing.
New scientific research revealed adults today are caring less for others and more about themselves — and this has negatively influenced youth and young professional development.
According to the research from Indiana University, declines in empathy among young people started happening in the early 2000s alongside a rise in mental health problems. Both outcomes are believed to be directly associated with burn-out.
With the mainstreaming of technology, shifts in parenting and education, and a greater social emphasis on competitiveness, testing, and success, children were facing challenges earlier generations didn’t face. Researchers believe this generation’s self-care and care for others was backburnered to focus on personal success and survival.
Here and now, children are observing communities in conflict, even during a global pandemic. Time will tell how this experience will influence their development, but the research indicates the conflict and lack of compassion is already more prevalent among adults than at any other time in history.
The questions at the top of mind right now for many leaders and teams is: How do we bring people together in this time of turbulence? Is teambuilding even possible?
Here are a few ways you can start rebuilding relationships and bridging gaps:
- Do a service project together;
- Draw names, pairing employees at random for a gift exchange or monthly ‘no work talk’ lunch;
- Stop work early so the entire team can do something social or fun outside the office;
- Invite employees to teach a class to their co-workers on something they know how to do – like painting, beer-making, yoga, or gardening;
- Encourage employees to submit compliments about one another, read aloud by an executive at an all-staff meeting.
When we’re interacting with new people in new ways, we’re challenged to listen, learn, and trust, which aids in our ability to empathize and foster stronger relationships.
Being nice should be the norm. It should be, but research indicates we’ve lost our way and need to get back to the basics of learning how to care for, work with, and live in community with others.
If its time to integrate empathy into your organization’s teambuilding strategy, let’s start a conversation.
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