Mean People Suck
How to build a culture of empathy
By Michael Brenner
This article is an excerpt from my book, Mean People
Suck: How Empathy Leads to Bigger Profits and a
Your employees are unhappy and disengaged. Your
leaders want their teams to do what they’re told. This
negative cycle is creating toxic work environments,
negative growth, and preventing your business from
launching the innovation required to win.
In researching my new book, “Mean People Suck: How
Empathy Leads To Bigger Profits and a Better Life,” I
learned that most of us simply want to do jobs that we
enjoy and have an impact. We want to feel like we are
making a difference in our companies and in the lives
of our customers and colleagues.
But something gets in the way.
Most employees think that mean people suck. They
blame their job, their manager, their company for
supporting a culture of abuse. They feel victimized in
their careers and wish companies put more focus on
the value of empathy.
Interestingly, companies who truly value empathy,
and who hire, fire, and promote leaders based on
that value have more engaged employees, more loyal
customers, and higher stock prices. But how do we
create a culture of empathy?
The Crisis of Empathy and Engagement
The University of Michigan Institute for Social
Researchi found that we are 40% less likely to describe
ourselves as having empathy for others today than
we were 40 years ago, with the steepest declines in
the last 10 years. In the Journal of Patient Experienceii,
Dr. Helen Riess talked about studies that show how
medical students have less empathy for patients with
each passing year of medical school and residency.
This happens despite students being taught that
empathy improves the patient experience and leads
to faster recovery times.
Many executives think they have this covered. The
State of Workplace Empathy Studyiii reports that 92%
of CEOs think their companies have organizational
empathy, while less than half of employees agree!
Gallupiv has been reporting on the lack of employee
engagement for years. In their latest survey, 34% of
employees report being engaged in their jobs, 53%
are disengaged, while 13% are actively disengaged,
meaning they are actively sabotaging the objectives
of their managers and the companies they work for.
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