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An emotional French Fencing Athlete

Sustainable leadership is based on character. Empathy is an important element of that character. It helps people to be successful and to be kind. Here’s an embarrassing example of what happens when there is no empathy at work. An insensitive French reporter wants to interview Lauren Rembi, a French fencer after her defeat in the 2016 Olympic games. Look what is happening:

(Lack of) Empathy at Work

The reporter has no eye for the emotional state of the woman. She is just crying. And he goes on and on and on. He’s very rude and rubs it in. She gave so many cues that she did not want this interview. Early on she withdraws but he holds her arm to keep her in front of the camera. It’s among the worst journalistic feats I have seen.
One could say the man is just doing his job. But doing your job does not exclude being human and being kind. This sports woman needed consolation, not an interview. .
Empathy is what makes us human. We should not shut it off when we go to work. On the contrary. We should base our work on our human characteristics: empathy, fairness, reciprocity and kindness.

What could he have done?

So what could he have done better? He could have turned off the cameras and have a kind conversation with her. Or he could have just let her go. Or he could have asked if she needed a bit of time before giving the interview. Or he could have changed the interview into a kind conversation. He could have shown empathy by saying he understands how she must feel. Or he could have given some words of consolation. On several occasions he tells the athlete that she has done well, but is does not sound very warm. He could have asked for just one reaction and then let her go. There are many things he could have done.
Empathy at work is important. This was an example of the lack of it and how that affects the performance of the journalist. There is no way that he can say he did well. Nobody watching this interview will have appreciated this.

David Ducheyne is the founder of Otolith. As a former HR and business leader he focuses now on humanising strategy execution.

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