Weakness of empathy


Empathy is one of the most important skills every manager and sales should have. We always have to put ourselves in somebody’s shoes and only then we can think about next actions. At the same time, we need to be sure we understand how empathy works and we should know it’s limitations. Lack of it can cause serious damage to our teams and the whole company.

Empathy is buzzword right now. We all should think about our customer’s fears, we should react to stakeholders actions or answer to all social media activities. I admit that this is one for most desired skills when I am looking for new sales to my team because without it we can not make proper decisions which will be beneficial to our customers. Nevertheless, we must remember that empathy as all other skills must be used properly.

Empathy is exhausting

 We can say that we always want to be good to others and make them happy and we do not want to complain but admit – being emphatic is really tiring. We are working in fast changing and chaotic environment and every time we need to focus and use 100% of our emotional intelligence we are reducing our mental resources. One of the most destructive things can happen is compassion fatigue. As managers or sales, we are not exposed to it as people who work with trauma victims but our customers are attacking us dozens of times per day with their problems expecting us to solve them. We are here to support them but remember that this is only your job and do not take it too personally.

The equation goes to zero

As I wrote before empathy is not a bottomless pit and every day we have only limited resources of it. The more empathy you need for your customers the less you will have for your colleagues, the more you need at work the less you will have for your family. At the same time when we are too emphatic to one group of people its difficult to us to be emphatic to the other one. In my previous company I had the sales representative who was so emphatic to his customers that he was more representing them inside of the company that representing company among his customers. It can be also difficult when teams in our company are too hermetic and they are emphatic only between team members. This can cause serious problems in internal cooperation.

Empathy as a threat for honesty

When we go too deep into somebody’s shoes sometimes we feel like his problems become our problems. This can blur evaluation of behaviors and we are more keen not to see somebody’s mistakes or actions. When empathy changes into loyalty its difficult to be fair to everyone. Unfortunately, we have too many examples not only in business but also in Gov institutions or religious institutions when misdemeanors were hidden or swept under the carpet.  

How to manage empathy?

Very often in sales negotiations, we think that our interest our customer interests are in the opposite. Thinking like that we are using a lot of power to put ourselves in their shoes. We are focusing on those matters which divide us and not on those which are common for both parties. Try to find a win-win solution using shared values with your customer. Another important matter is having a break from empathy. Remember to give your sales time for different tasks than sales. Around 20% of their time should be not connected to sales and contacting the customers. This will give them some time to rest and recharge their batteries.

Empathy is very important

I want you to remember that besides all those threads empathy is one of the most important skills and that is why we need to use it in the very smart way. Instead of talking about how people feel try to talk with them about their experience. This is less exhausting for employees, managers and it gives better feedback to the company.