Empathy is the Foundation of Inclusion

Over the last 18 months and counting, we have watched as aspects of life that we took for granted crumbled in the wake of global pandemic. This instability has manifested in many ways, but perhaps the most felt is loss. Personal and collective illness and death have shaped our reality alongside soaring unemployment rates, parents scrambling to navigate increasingly inaccessible childcare and risky school openings, and ongoing conversations around race and equity following the hypervisibility of police brutality and systemic oppression. Trying to find a grip while juggling these ever-evolving circumstances has taken an emotional and mental toll that is impossible to ignore.

In this miasma of grief, trauma, and stress, how do we show up for one another? It has become customary to separate who we are at home from who we are at work. But as COVID-19 and this ongoing crisis have shown, those strict boundaries are paper thin.

The grief that has settled into our daily lives does not disappear when we sign on and, due to the intersecting identities that we all inhabit, our grief comes in different shapes and sizes. As we continue to evaluate workplace culture and strive for inclusivity, we must constantly remember that inclusion is based on our relationships. Without a genuine desire to understand the unique struggles that each of us undertakes, whether our issues are systemic or personal, we run the risk of isolating each other or providing a place of false expectation. We have to be brave enough to help and connect meaningfully with one another. We must be empathetic.

Empathy Bootcamp, created and designed by Dr. Kelsey Crowe and her expert team, is reshaping the way businesses incorporate empathy as a foundational practice. Inspired by her research while pursuing her Ph.D. in social work and personal experiences that shaped her book There’s No Good Card for This, Dr. Crowe’s work focuses on empathy intelligence, a more comprehensive approach to empathy that includes actions for people to take, reflection on one’s own empathy practices and emotional responses, and recognition of racial, gender, ability, and socioeconomic differences through an empathetic and organizational lens. If any of these areas are neglected, presenteeism — a phenomenon where employees come to work physically but are unable to engage mentally and productively — can fester. By focusing on empathy intelligence and emotional support, businesses demonstrate that the totality of a person matters; they will be cared for, not punished, when they experience hardship. Safe in the knowledge of company support, employees become more present, and as a result, engagement and productivity soar.

During virtual workshops hosted by Empathy Bootcamp, participants can get a taste of the courses, content, and training that Dr. Crowe and the Empathy Bootcamp team of trainers use to develop the empathy skills necessary to craft a culture of belonging. Topics covered vary but can include our fear of not saying the right thing, the importance of speaking up for those whose source of grief or trauma may stem from the workplace, and even having the grace to understand our own emotional limitations. By providing space to talk about what may hold us back from fully showing up for others, Dr. Crowe sets a tone of vulnerability and openness that is sorely needed in this time of loss and upheaval. Open to All® and corporate partners were not only able to experience the power of such a space with Dr. Crowe in a workshop, but also delve into the resources needed to build such a space for others.

Every employee is a human being deserving of support and recognition of the full scope of their humanity. Through this empathy-first approach, Empathy Bootcamp provides individuals within an organization with the empathetic tools necessary to create a business-wide culture of care. Our one-on-one interactions are the building blocks through which trust and an environment of safety and engagement that everyone can take part in are created. Only when that foundation is built can we begin to forge something even better.

At a time of deep divisions, we’re joining together from all walks of life and work to build a thriving and inclusive nation where all are welcome.