Can the HR industry ditch the myth that empathy and accountability are at odds with each other? This is the question Jennifer Lee, director of L&D at JB Training Solutions, sought to answer for attendees at the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference.
The presentation contained three key case studies that were exercises in empathy: the stellar employee asking for flexible hours because his nanny quit, the bright new hire who is overwhelmed and requesting some mental health days to stave off a breakdown, and the not-so-stellar employee asking for a slice of the flexibility pie.
Using these hypothetical scenarios and harnessing the energy of both the flesh-and-blood and digital audiences, Lee helped SHRM attendees come to a verdict: HR leads can help managers balance empathy and accountability by encouraging thoughtfulness and tact. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying, “I want to deal with what's going on with you personally and I want to make sure the organizational needs are met,” Lee explained.
HR leads and managers can audit where they stand in these areas by rating themselves on a scale from 0 to 10. For accountability: “If you've gotten everything done that they've asked you to do plus 12 more people's worth of work,” rank yourself a 10, Lee told SHRM 2022 attendees. If “you haven’t gotten anything done since 2019,” put yourself at “zero,” she quipped.
Meanwhile, for empathy, a zero score is invoked if “you are an island and you don't care about anybody else.” Lee described a “do your jobs, people!” type of attitude. Meanwhile, a 10 empathy rating is for bosses and HR managers who know all of their employees individually and feel “all of it.”
As empathy-minded leaders reassess their approaches to relationship building with their direct reports, the stories below can provide is a refresher on embracing vulnerability and creating psychological safety.