Empathy, Emotional Intelligence and #MeToo

A Year of Extremity
As we bid farewell to 2017 and say hello to the promises that are 2018, will we approach the New Year a bit wiser through our individual and collective experience? So much has happened in our world in the last 12 months. The changes have come at lightning speed, which makes it difficult, to say the least, to integrate the learnings.
One of 2017’s biggest collective experiences has been the #MeToo movement. Women (and men) have been inspired to share their experiences of sexual harassment and sexual assault, much of which occurred in the work setting. #MeToo was unleashed. It was cathartic and empowering for many. It was an “in your face” testimonial to the pervasiveness of sexual assault and harassment in today’s society. It was career ending for some prominent figures as they were convicted swiftly in the court of public opinion. #MeToo brought about a deep reflection for many.

How can we address accusations fairly while swiftly sending a clear message that harassment and assault are zero tolerance behaviors everywhere? Many men and women are self-reflective of their own social interactions. Which behaviors cross that line? Can we still have mutually fun and friendly banter at work without taking a trip down to HR? Without reflection, open discussion, and behavioral change, as the #metoo wave subsides, men and women and the businesses they spend a good part of their days at, will return to the status quo.

Will the #MeToo Movement Become “A Thing That Happened 2017” or a Turning Point?
Does your company have a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment and sexual assault? If not, that’s a place to start. Does your company have a sexual harassment and sexual assault mandatory education for all employees that shares clear expectations and what to do? Are you creating a work culture wherein employees feel safe speaking up? Do they trust the company to act when they take the risk of speaking out?

This is Where Emotional Intelligence Comes In!
Part of emotional intelligence is having and demonstrating empathy. Development of the empathy muscle is work and the outcome is the reward of powerful leadership capacity. Demonstrating empathy has many benefits both personally and interpersonally. Empathic leaders build a reputation as a trustworthy ally with peers, supervisors, and direct reports. Demonstrating empathy gently states, “I hear you, I get you, and you can trust that I am here on your team.” Empathy builds trust. Teams with high levels of trust are also more profitable, have a greater employee engagement, and experience deeper work satisfaction.

What Can Be Done?
I coach a lot of men and women. They are concerned. They are reflective. They are trying to understand that line and next steps. Some get it intuitively. Some nice, caring people are second guessing their own behaviors. People sometimes miss important social cues for different reasons. The good news is empathy and other emotional intelligence skills can be honed. Next year, when we look back at the #MeToo movement, let’s not just say,”Wasn’t that great?” Let’s make sure we gain the necessary skills to empower, engage, and educate our workforce for permanent change.

Written by: Terry Hoffmann

Terry Hoffmann specializes in partnering with organizations to create, deliver, and enhance their coaching programs. She coaches physicians, executives, and teams to drive profitability, foster loyalty, enhance provider and staff engagement and satisfaction, and create high performance work cultures. Terry's educational background includes a Graduate Certificate in Executive and Professional Coaching from the University of Texas at Dallas Naveen Jindal School of Management, Master's degree in counseling psychology from the University of North Florida and a Bachelor's of Science in psychology from Colorado State University. She holds a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential through the International Coach Federation and a Board Certified Coach (BCC) through the Center for Credentialing and Education.