Why do some organisations have an empathy deficit when it comes to building working relationships?

Social Diversity

Created on: November 04, 2017

Updated on: November 04, 2017

Why do some organisations have an empathy deficit when it comes to building working relationships?

The position that was offered

Some time ago I was offered a job to be able to provide some of my web development services, and I worked for one of the largest transport mini-cab organisations in the UK, based near London Euston Station. Before I was offered the position, I remember asking the interviewer how did this web development services position come about?

And I remember his response "This is a new position that we just created".

Before we move on to what transpired when I worked there, I thought it would be a good idea if we define the meaning of bullying and harassment.

What is bullying or harassment?

Bullying definition According to the Norwegian researcher Dan Olweus bullying is

"Bullying occurs when a person is "exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons".

He says negative actions occur "when a person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, through words or in other ways."

Harassment definition

Workplace harassment is:

The offensive, belittling or threatening behaviour directed at an individual worker or a group of workers.>The odious dealing through pitiless, malevolent, hurtful or embarrassing attempts to undermine an individual worker or groups of workers.>

The first month in the job

My role there was to install and manage an online archiving system and to update and install their anti-virus security suite amongst smaller bits and pieces to do with other web development services.

During my first month, I was working downstairs in the basement setting up the archiving solution. I thought that being in the basement working on my own wasn’t a bad thing.

I enjoyed the solitude at the beginning and each time I went to the main floor where I was going to be based I could catch a glimpse of the working environment I was about to join.

After a period of a month I eventually moved to the main floor and I sat in a group of 8 people and we all had our web development services work cut out.

Our work days were long, 9 hour days which meant that work life balance was in a state of constant peril.

Work, Life Balance

Work, Life balance isn’t a one size fits all concept.

We all have a duty to look at how work and your life should fit together in a healthy and value driven way. There are lots of people who identify themselves through their work. This creates problems in the future when work is scarce as it is now!

In addition to this there are some web development services organisations amongst others that adhere to a culture in which leaving work at 7pm in the evening is frowned upon.

This eventually leads in to a situation in which the worker doesn’t have any free time to devote to other areas of their lives such as child rearing or participating in leisure activities, DIY etc.

What is a belligerent lateness policy?

Whilst I was working there, I was commuting from Bedfordshire and at the time (unusually), the trains ran on time.

This was during the period in which London Underground's Victoria lines’ new trains were being tested and so this lead to many delays on that tube line.

The organisation had a policy in which if you were late, it didn’t matter if you were a minute late or an hour. Once you clocked in, the system would notify your line manager. The line manager's had to inform their employee/s between 11 and 12pm that you had to go home. And as a parting gift that day, the organisation would also kindly subtract that day’s wages from your salary.

This meant that something outside of your control such as a train or tube breakdown was your fault.

How do you punish colleagues who don't fit in to your culture?

As the second month went by, I noticed that a one colleague within the web development services team was undergoing incessant harassment by his manager and his boss.

This colleague did not have an English accent, he had a Congolese accent and he was the only person in our team who had a foreign accent. His web development services work was constantly undermined and management shouted and screamed at him each and every day.

It wasn’t long before I came to befriend him and we used to go out to lunch together and we shared our anecdotes.

Meanwhile, the lunch break policy was that we had to have 2 people in the office at all times to manage the phones. This policy was being adhered to whilst I worked there.

This wasn’t a problem for the first 3 months I was there and then all of a sudden, we were banned from taking lunch breaks together.

We were deliberately split up and I didn’t get a lunch break until 1600 hrs which was literally an hour or two before my shift ended and as I was about to pack up my web development services work for that day.

Looking back in retrospect this was a warning for what was to come.

Listening to your employees and customers is extremely rewarding

In most organisations, I have worked in places where they have listened to the people on the ground so that they can learn, engage and act upon the findings from them.

Listening helps to challenge your own assumptions and it helps to keep you grounded and it helps to keep our ego in check.

If you are working within a web development services organisation or any other for that matter, that listens and acts on these issues, it prevents problems from snowballing and increasing in size and it helps to create a culture of innovation and pride.

This is because as human beings we get things wrong from time to time and we can learn a lot more from our mistakes as opposed to our successes. Whilst I was providing my web development services to the organisation, I had to find out why there were lots of trojans and viruses within the organisation.

I pulled out all the stops and thankfully I had built a small network of people from when I worked at Mcafee. I got in touch with the chief software architect in the US to find out what was happening....

They recommended that I implement the Windows updates on all client and server machines running in the organisation as the first step.

I then arranged a meeting with my web development services team manager and his boss on the Friday so that we could implement the updates.

The manager on hearing my advice started shouting and screaming at me. This kind of behaviour is very unprofessional and it helped to reinforce the fact that I worked in a very negative and controlling web development services environment that was extremely toxic to my well-being.

The manager steadfastly refused to implement the windows updates.

This behaviour effectively undermined my position, and this is one of the tenets of bullying and harassment. I could not reconcile my role as a IT security engineer with an organisation that refused to implement these updates.

I was shocked and saddened by their attitude and I decided to think about it over the weekend.

We make sacrifices for others in our actions

After careful consideration, I decided to return to the office on the Monday morning and I resigned without notice.

Over that weekend, I had carefully crafted a 20-page resignation letter that analysed the events leading to my resignation. I sacrificed my position for others and I had decided that I or my web development services work ethic was not going to be complicit in any wrongdoing.

It’s very important to live by your values because this demonstrates your strength of character.

At the time, I was living in a mortgaged house and my actions resulted in selling my house and returning to London.

Meanwhile, a few years later on the bus I saw a colleague on the bus. He informed me that the manager had been sidelined and replaced with a new manager. He read my 20-page report in detail and he praised my actions.

If you don’t already know making sacrifices helps to build trust and integrity in to your character and its extremely important that we stand up to injustice in the workplace. If we don’t believe in our skills and abilities and stand up for what we believe in, then we are effectively complicit in living inauthentic lives and this is very concerning for the future.

Let us know what you think about the empathy deficit within some organisations, web development services based or otherwise.