In December of last year, I clicked on an article from Fast Company about the most empathetic companies in the world. In fact, that was the title: “These Are The Most Empathetic Companies In The World.” I remember skimming the piece made me want to launch my computer into the sun, especially after I clicked through to look at the survey and the overall methodology. It’s been more than two months now, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about just how flawed and bad the entire underlying idea is: The idea that we can measure empathy.
I think about empathy a lot, whether in a business setting or nowhere near one. What empathy looks and feels like and are those different things, whether I’m being empathetic or whether someone else is, how to be empathetic in a way that doesn’t emotionally exhaust everyone, and so on. But I don’t much like to declare how empathetic I am because I often think empathy is sort of like teenage boys and sex: The more a teenage boy talks about how much sex he’s having, the more likely it is he’s having none at all.
So the idea of – if you will forgive this quote — “Empathy as not a soft nurturing value but a hard commercial tool,” made me really mad. So did the concept of “empathetic companies,” whose empathy quotient was determined by surveys through Glassdoor and Survation plus data collected on Twitter. Even typing this now makes me want to throw my hands up and yell a lot, but that won’t get us anywhere. Read more