Sympathy for the Devil – Empathy Pitfalls


Recently a lovely reader commented on my post Empathy in the Workplace, she brought up how could you deal when employers or employee turn empathy into sympathy? What a valid point!

Over the years I have always tried to be empathetic to my job and company, but there have been times when my boss or work colleague have used my empathy as leverage. This is unacceptable! Not only are they pressuing you into something that you do not want to do, but it is also close to being emotional blackmail.

So what can you do about it? Well don’t worry beau I got you! Below I am going to provide you with an example of someone using your empathy as leverage and with that I will provide some answers you can give back to them.  I would like to point out these have worked for me, but it may not work in all environments. So please work on individual answers as well!!

  • Your boss approved your annual leave a couple of days ago, an hour before you close for the day they approach you and asked that you work an extra shift over the weekend. Unfortunately you cannot work it due to other commitments and it being such short notice. In the next breathe they start saying that they only apporved your leave a few days ago, they are making it out like you owe them or are trying to make you feel guiIty. So what should you do?
    • Firstly remember by law you are entitled to annual leave and them approving it for you is no favour, also they cannot revoke their approval for leave without you agreeing to the changes. If the discussion gets quite intense bring up this as a fact, but you should only use this point at the end of the conversation.
    • Express to them that it is too short notice and you have other commitments but are happy to call another colleague that might be able to fill in.
    •  You can also say “I understand you are short staffed but I unfortunately cannot help you”. Stand firm against them, you are not to be bullied into something you cannot do.
    • Say to them “I know (insert colleague name) is looking for extra hours, why not give them a call?” This diverts their focus to other people who might be able to do the shift, also you inadverantely helping someone else get extra hours..winning!

It bad business practice if your boss or work colleague is putting that pressure on you and trying to force you to do things that you cannot do. If they continuously do this speak with your Human Resources Department or if you are working in a small company talk with colleagues who might be able to help. Lastly if you are really hard up go talk to a governmnet office, for New Zealand there is the Department of Labour they specialise in workplace disputes. Internationally google your country’s labour department and go pop in, they will definitely have someone who can help you.

Stand up for your rights, you are a great person and worker!

To better business practices,



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