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Commentary Detail

Empathy is Central to Success at Work
Commentary by: Anna Navarro
Aired January 28, 2008

Understanding others’ needs and taking them into account as you pursue yours is essential for success at work.

Kara was the business manager of a non-profit. But she really wanted to manage programs, not business functions. I’ve fictionalized her story to protect privacy and I am telling it with permission.

Kara had a plan for how to reach her goal. She'd developed an idea for a new program and a way to fund it. She wanted her boss to let her launch the program and run it full time. But then she paused to consider his needs.

He’d probably be worried about replacing her. Also, his relations with the board were currently a little strained, and that might make him reluctant to seek their approval now for a new program.

So she changed her approach to deal with the concerns she knew her boss would have. Instead of launching the new program, she proposed doing a pilot project. She offered to staff it while keeping her current job. The pilot wouldn’t require board approval.

She got permission for the pilot. Later on, she got approval to delegate some of her business responsibilities to a subordinate, which reduced her time pressure and gave her subordinate great exposure to the boss.

The pilot was a success. A year later, the board approved the new program, with Kara in charge. Her subordinate was promoted to her old job.

The moral of the story is this: the more you attend to the needs of others while pursuing your own goals, the more likely you are to get what you want.

(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)

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Anna Navarro

Anna Navarro


Anna Navarro is the founder of Work Transitions, a nationwide organization dedicated to helping individuals find satisfaction and fulfillment in their work.


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