Newspapers and websites from around the globe published moving images this morning of Italy’s Labor Minister weeping.
Elsa Fornero is crying because she was unable to hold back her emotions while telling Italians they faced many austerity measures in the months and years ahead, including everything from boosting the retirement age by six years to pension cuts.
This from UK newspaper The Telegraph:
“We had to… and it cost us a lot psychologically… ask for a…” Ms Fornero said, but was unable to complete her sentence as she wiped tears from her eyes.
Mr Monti finished the sentence for her, speaking the word “sacrifice” that she’d been unable say.
I know many career experts tell employees and managers to keep their emotions in check on the job, especially women. Women are told to keep a stiff upper lip or risk being seen as weak. Well, pretending we’re just like the tough men in the workplace has done little for the advancement of women in Corporate America or in politics.
And during these tough economic times around the world, it’s refreshing to see a politician who seems to get how hard all these sacrifices workers are making really are.
“Empathy has gotten a bad rap in the last 25 years in business,” says Dev Patnaik, author of “Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy.”
The best organizations and the ones that survive economic tsunamis, he says, are those with empathetic cultures and managers who are able to step outside themselves and walk in someone else’s shoes.
It’s not about being all touchy-feely. “It’s about having intuition and a gut feeling for other people,” he explains.
There are positives and negatives when it comes to empathy at work. If you can find the right balance it will only bode well for your company and career, says Judith Orloff, MD, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA and author of “Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life.”
“Empathy is the most beautiful quality in human nature,” she stressed. “With it, you can have a deep respect for other people and insight and caring that gets communicated in the workplace as opposed to just going by the rules and not being sensitive to human needs.”
On the down side, she added, “is becoming overwhelmed by it, especially in this economy.” And that, she says, will keep you from doing what you need to do at work.
“Empaths,” as she calls them, are prone to anxiety, depression and fatigue because they take all the pain onto themselves.
The key, she advises, is realizing your limitations when it comes to helping those around you. “Don’t have illusions you can save the world,” she maintains.
Indeed, Fornero won’t be saving the world with her tears, but she is showing that the world isn’t a dark, cold place despite the horrible sacrifices so many are being ask to make right now.