Category Archives: Communication

We Need Organizational Empathy

Recently I was in the grocery store and noticed one of the employees inspecting the fruit. Particularly, she was making sure that the fruit was appropriately stocked and fresh. When she encountered a couple of containers that had a few molded blueberries, she immediately communicated this issue to the produce employee. The young man came over to inspect the fruit that she identified and afterwards asked her “why are you doing this?” Her response was “this is what the manager asked me to do.” He gave her a look suggesting that this was a waste of time then proceeded to grumble a few words to the young lady. Being a customer who loves fresh produce, I appreciated the work this young lady was performing. I have often purchased a container of berries and been annoyed to find molded fruit in the container. Reflecting upon the exchange between the two employees, I, however, found it interesting that the employees did not understand the significance of their work and their impact on the organization. Particularly, how a poor product (i.e., fruit) can lead to unsatisfied customers, which, in turn, will lead to decreased sales. This inspired several thoughts:

1) When assigning employees with work responsibilities, it is imperative for employees to understand why their work is important. Leaders should take the time to communicate the significance of work role responsibilities and how it impacts the overall organization. This will assist employees with understanding why their work is important and, consequently, it will provide meaning to their required tasks.

2) Empathy, the ability to identify and understand another person’s feelings, will also develop when employees understand why their work is important. Often we take for granted that individuals have the knowledge or understanding of the impact of their assigned tasks without engaging the employee. Yes, I understand…poor quality produce should be obvious. However, how many organizations launch a product with poor specifications or functionality without engaging the consumer..only to realize a failed product and unsatisfied customers. Perhaps these two employees would have had increased motivation to complete their tasks, if not only they understood the importance of their work, but also had the ability to empathize with the consumer who purchases their products. Of course many of us are thinking this should be common sense, but when extending this notion to other work roles within various organizations, we can see how understanding the need of the consumer is often overlooked.

In sum, organizational leaders have a role with not only mentoring their employees, but they also have a duty with coaching their employees with understanding the impact of their work responsibilities for the organization. One way to address this issue is to focus on the Interpersonal dimension of Emotional Intelligence. Focusing on this dimension will not only improve an employee’s working relationships, it will also enhance their ability to empathize with the needs of their customers. Hence, a better work environment and product or service cultivates increased productivity and organizational performance.

Erica L. Anthony, Ph.D., is the CEO/Founder of Lyceum for Innovative Leadership LLC, a full service coaching, training, and consulting business seeking to assist high potential professionals with achieving their personal and professional goals. For additional information regarding Lyceum for Innovative Leadership LLC and the services offered, please visit

Communication: The Importance of Interpersonal Skills

EmailRecently NPR wrote an article “We Are Just Not Here Anymore” and it got me to thinking about the interpersonal relationships, or lack of, which occurs within the workplace.  Although technology affords us the opportunity to accomplish more with our work role responsibilities, we seem to have forgotten how to build a rapport with our direct reports, peers, and superiors.  Technology (i.e., email, text messages, or instant messages) is the preferred style of communication, however, although convenient, it inhibits individuals with effectively developing a bond with others.  More importantly, we have forgotten why building interpersonal relationships are important.   I attempt to address this issue with my clients as well as with my undergraduate students.

My area of expertise focuses on Leadership, Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management.  To summarize, I focus on people psychology; understanding what contributes to the attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors of individuals within the workplace, as well as, their associated outcomes.  Employees want to feel valued and that their concerns are “heard” and are considered important.  Interpersonal communication that occurs only with technology (e.g., email, text messages, instant messages) within a workplace, especially between a leader and his/her direct report, can desensitize the interpersonal interaction that is transpiring…leaving the employee feeling as an unvalued member of the organization.   When this level of desensitization continues over a period of time, employees will perceive their work to be less meaningful and may become less engaged in their work.  Consequently, this reduces organizational productivity and profits.  To address this issue, training on interpersonal interactions has become more prevalent over the past few years.  The purpose of management courses or workshops pertaining to Leadership, Team Building, and Conflict Management, to name a few, is to assist students/participants with understanding the importance of engaging in soft skills and how these interpersonal skills affect those around them.

To hone in on this concept in my undergraduate courses, I employ one key rule. I mandate a policy where technology is prohibited…yes you read correctly; cell phones, laptops, tablets, etc are not allowed in my class room.  I enforce this rule because it is a distraction for everyone in the class room and I am also seeking to develop the students’ ability to focus, develop discipline, and engage in communication and interactions with others without the veil of technology.  I know my clients/students ability to effectively engage in interpersonal communication without hiding behind technology will be instrumental for their professional future.  I share similar advice for young professionals seeking to propel their career and offer some additional insights.  Here are two tips to keep in mind:

a)    Get Out of Your Chair:  If you are seeking assistance or information from someone whose office is only a few feet away, instead of sending an email, take the time to walk over to their office.  Saying “hello”, introducing yourself, and getting to know the people you are working with is not only an asset in your professional role, but it can also afford you an opportunity to build friendships outside the workplace; and

b) Network: Attend events where you can meet other individuals within your organization or industry.  Professionals are successful not only for their technical expertise; their success can also be attributed to their ability to build partnerships internal and external to the organizations they work for.

I challenge you to think about your professional relationships. Are you comfortable with engaging others without technology?

Erica L. Anthony, Ph.D., is the CEO/Founder of Lyceum for Innovative Leadership LLC, a full service coaching, training, and consulting business seeking to assist high potential professionals with achieving their personal and professional goals. For additional information regarding Lyceum for Innovative Leadership LLC and the services offered, please visit