Low Workplace Empathy: Is The LESA Syndrome™ Hurting Your Teams’ Performance?

Low Workplace Empathy and Obsession With Digital Devices Believed to Be Related

I bet you’re probably asking yourself, “What the heck is the LESA Syndrome™?” It stands for a Lack of Empathy and Self-Awareness and is our term for, “the inability or unwillingness to embrace personal connection, be empathetic and relate effectively to others.” This condition is on the rise in just about every business in every industry and is a growing problem. Have you sensed a scarcity of these traits in your organization?

Some employees are so obsessed with digital devices, they’re losing the ability to collaborate and connect. High Definition People® A growing chorus of thought leaders believes a significant root of the problem is today’s culture of obsessive interaction with digital devices. How often do people send an email or a text to a customer, a co-worker or a team member when a phone call or face-to-face conversation would probably be more effective? Why would an employee engage in multiple email exchanges or texts with a frustrated colleague or customer or boss sitting five offices down the hall when speaking directly would resolve the issue and improve the relationship?

Communication through digital devices is quickly replacing old-fashioned human interaction, diminishing empathy, self-awareness and personal connection. Rather than connecting with one another, many people are disconnecting and disengaging. It’s a growing problem not only in business but in the home. Have you ever seen a family in a restaurant all on their phones instead of conversing with one another? How cohesive is that family unit? How collaborative and effective is a work team that has to work around interpersonal issues before they can get to the task at hand because some team members no longer connect well with one another?

Some Executives Feel Low Performance Linked to Low Employee Self Awareness

– Empathy - the quality of feeling and grasping someone’s situation and conveying this to the person. High Definition People<sup>®</sup> Recently we interviewed executives who expressed concern that if they don’t get employees off their digital devices and making face-to-face human connections, their business will suffer unfortunate consequences. Examples they gave included poor customer experience, cultures of silos, low morale, weak teamwork, customer and employee retention, diminished sales and productivity.

Several senior HR execs also admitted a lack of these desirable traits limited advancement opportunities. People get passed over for a promotion all the time for this very reason and don’t even realize why. They found it troubling that a person’s low workplace empathy and self-awareness seems tied to a diminished ability to self-manage (look for future posts on this topic).

One HR manager stated, “Even those with impressive resumes and experience often lack workplace empathy, self-awareness and the interpersonal skills we need. Our surveys show it’s hurting the customer experience so one of our strategic initiatives is to build awareness of the need to connect.” One CEO said, “Performance and vocational skills alone are not enough to advance and succeed in our organization. We look for leaders who can connect, build relationships, lead, motivate and work cohesively with their staff, colleagues and customers.”

A higher level of self-awareness means a higher capacity to engage productively with team members. High Definition PeopleSo here’s the good news! A growing number of companies are finding what really creates thriving cultures and organizations is employees who exhibit a high level of what matters above all – relational ability. The most respected, valued and productive employees and effective leaders possess traits such as empathy, service ethic, keeping one’s agreements, resilience, self-management, confidence and more. Congratulations if these traits describe you as you are in an elite group we call High Definition People®. But what about the rest of your organization?

Assess If Your Organization is Experiencing The LESA Syndrome™

To get some indication of whether or not your organization has symptoms of The LESA Syndrome™, answer the following questions and share them with other managers.

  1. Have you noticed staff avoiding direct contact with peers, customers, vendors, etc, and who prefer communicating solely through email and other digital devices? (as an aside, do you find this practice as exasperating as we do?)
  2. Have you noticed that some staff is just not aware of how their interactions are affecting others?
  3. Do you see poor interactions resulting in poor relationships between certain employees that are interfering with their ability to accomplish tasks? When you try to resolve the issues, are people unaware of how the divide started? (People with low self-awareness usually don’t see they may be at the cause.)
  4. Do you notice people will say or do something looking only through their own lens, not taking into consideration the experience base of the other person?
  5. How would you rate your team’s ability and/or desire to listen to others, demonstrate empathy and connect well with them?

In future blog posts, I’ll describe how to develop and nurture these highly desirable characteristics and how staff can develop self-management traits.

Thanks for reading this post; tell us how you did and share your observations!


Barbara Sanfilippo, CPA, CPAE
Inspiring Breakthrough Performance at Work and in Life®
High Definition People®

P.S.  If you’re planning an employee meeting, kickoff event, leadership retreat, etc., read six factors Barb delivers on and watch my demo video to see how I’ll engage and inspire your employees to achieve your strategic objectives. Let’s plan an exciting and informative motivational presentation or workshop at your leadership, sales or all-employee meeting!

“Outstanding Barb! Your motivational keynote at our Annual Franchisee conference was fantastic. You delivered a unique, experiential keynote with a roadmap to follow, a call to action and the inspiration to succeed; a great return on our investment. We look forward to having you back to speak at our Branch Leadership Conference and regional events.”

          – BrightStar Franchising, LLC

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