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Empathy and Its Discontents Essay

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Updated: Jul 20th, 2021


Sympathy with persons at a distance is much fainter than that with people who are near. This is influenced by social distance, which is a measure of segregation with respect to sociability concerns between groups of people created by alleged or actual differences as characterised by well-known societal categories. It is evident across a range of social groupings, encompassing race, class, customs, culture, nationality, religious conviction, sexuality, age, and gender, to mention a few. In organisations and market settings, moral limits signify the application of principles of justice, responsibility, and honesty to affiliations with clients and co-workers. The fact that we live in a global village implies that some international social norms or regulations of conduct may be required (Gino & Ariely 2012). For example, there is a need for the enhancement of market morals and regulations to facilitate excellent behaviour and decorum.

Market or corporate morals denote a form of professional or applied ethics that assesses ethical standards and issues that occur in business environments. They mark a sunshade expression that wraps all morality-associated concerns that arise in the process of business dealings. Market morality is established by the regulations, codes of conduct, principles, and values that offer direction for morally suitable conduct in managerial choices concerning the practices of organisations and business connections with the community (Sandel 2013). It is applicable to every facet of business practice and is pertinent to the operations of individual employees, as well as the whole organisation. In addition, business morality is reliant on the behaviour that organisations abide by in their interrelations with stakeholders (for instance, workers, suppliers, clients, immediate community, and the public in general).

Success in the globalisation era demands corporations to depend increasingly on a geographically scattered labour force. They create teams that provide the finest operational expertise from across the globe, in conjunction with a profound, local understanding of the greatest flourishing markets. Successful organisations are capitalising on the gains of global diversity, working with individuals from various cultures and different job experiences and a wide-ranging perspective on tactical and business challenges. This enables multinational corporations to compete successfully in today’s business settings. Nonetheless, some of the management teams that lead different corporations are opposed to severe competition. Globalisation has made the creation of successful business dealings very difficult for organisations that fail to embrace it and chose to remain local with executives sharing the office space (Kotlyar & Ariely 2013. Nonetheless, when members of the team hail from diverse nationalities and operational backgrounds and organisations expand to other countries, it has a high chance of boosting its sales and thriving. Nevertheless, in such instances, communication may quickly worsen, misunderstandings might develop, and collaboration can degenerate into mistrust.

Corporations that have overcome the globalisation challenges have produced incredible innovations and generated billions of dollars for the benefit of their clients and shareholders. The application of technology has the ability to either increase or decrease social distance. For example, the use of video conferencing enables the occurrence of rich communication where both sentiments and context may be comprehended. Moreover, the use of technology in this manner also creates room for more empathy. On the contrary, the use of electronic mail provides greater simplicity and competence but falls short of contextual cues. Wise utilisation of technology can help corporations reduce social distance (Sandel 2013). If constituent countries are unequal with respect to the level of income, a commonality of conditions that uphold cohesiveness prevails, while if such inequality and economic situations are not equally shared, the state of affairs is rather more discordant and isolating. This study seeks to address the concerns of corporate social responsibility and empathy.

Empathy and Corporate Social Responsibility

In the place of work, empathy concerns the show of respect for workers and other stakeholders. It entails the management of an organisation demonstrating that they take care of employees as important elements and identify that they have a life outside the corporation. Different researchers have affirmed that empathetic individuals think more about the way in which they contribute to social changes than only counting their gains (Sandel 2012). Therefore, empathy may be the motivating force for organisations to give the underprivileged access to opportunities in addition to resolutions to the problems facing them. It has long been identified that empathy has a crucial role to play with regard to corporate social responsibility, particularly when compared to traditional businesses, which are inclined toward self-learning motivation.

Multinational corporations are advancing from just compliance-propelled corporate social responsibility practices to acting as advocates for international concerns. In this manner, they experience new challenges in informing and involving customers in complicated issues, as well as corporate policies. To maintain influence and effect transformations, corporations are progressively necessitated to create immediate and profound relations with clients, workers, investors, policymakers, shareholders, and other major stakeholders. It is in such practices that virtual reality offers promising uses. Organisational management should be concerned with two forms of empathy at the workplace (Bloom 2017). These are employee empathy and corporate empathy. The latter concerns the manner in which corporations show kindness for external initiatives, for example, environmental protection, volunteer plans, and social foundations. The management of most corporations understands that having a social basis is imperative not just to the business but also to employees. Although employees embrace and anticipate corporate empathy, they also prefer a sense of compassion in the workplace and from the top-down. Organisational executives should operate through a spirit of empathy, which calls for valuing the employees’ interests and welfare in the process of decision making.

The Creation of an Empathetic Culture

A crucial factor of creating an empathetic culture is for the management to have a vivid understanding of the authorisation and constantly guide by example. There is a need for an empathetic culture to be developed from top-down for it to spread across the organisation effectively. Managers should reassess the organisation’s internal communication approaches to make sure that empathy lies in all messages, particularly on concerns regarding profitability, corporate strategies, and employee programs. An empathetic culture is difficult to establish successfully in an organisation. It demands time, over and above cultural dedication. Executives should take time to learn about the needs and well-being of employees (Aras & Crowther 2016). The management should set a suitable tone and strike a balance between employees and profitability. If managers care about the sentiments and views of others throughout the organisations, they generate a deep connection, which backs the success of the corporation. This brings about improved trust and devotion, which are the elements for enhanced retention and employee support.

Effective customer service acts as the fundamental heart of the corporation, the channel through which organisations articulate their values. The adoption of a customer service outlook and empathetic culture across the organisation usually demands a rewiring of objectives and facilitated communication of ideals and ethics. Multinational corporations should discover the best means of succeeding at empathy with the aim of generating and sustaining customer confidence (Crane & Matten 2016). Although this has apparent insinuations for the function of customer service, organisations require moving beyond and above the prioritisation of outstanding support. A strong and reliable corporate social responsibility ethos is among the clearest approaches for organisations to propagate to the existing and potential clients that they treasure. Effective corporate social responsibility programs share numerous things. For instance, they show an authentic link to an organisation’s brand and employee values, encompassing transparent and lucid communication of the plan’s impact, providing continued engagement, and being back at all ranks of the corporation.

Against Empathy

Despite its numerous benefits, empathy may result in poor decisions. This means that it might offer unconstructive moral guidance to the management of organisations. Although empathy makes a person do what is right, it can also lead to one doing the wrong things. This is attributable to its ability to distort a person’s judgment. Empathy has the capacity to elicit the management’s altruistic impulses leading to poor choices that could negatively affect many people for the advantage of one person or a few people (Card 2005). For organisational leaders, empathy could cloud their moral reasoning through its encouragement of bias and making them less efficient at having wise resolutions.

Empathy has the ability to result in distress. This emanates from its inclination to take on the agony and problems of other people, which is tough and detrimental to one’s psychological wellbeing (Bloom 2016). For example, it is traumatising for an emergency room physician to treat the casualties of traffic accidents, tragedies, hostility, and other appalling injuries, which call for one to be first empathetic with them. The doctor in such a multinational healthcare facility will keep seeing people who are badly injured and some dying in the course of treatment. Each hour, and every day, the physician will also witness the pain and sorrow of patients’ family members for the death and suffering of their loved ones. Leaders of multinational corporations will numerously find the members of their teams going through baffling situations, for example, the loss of a big client, failure to get the promotion that they want and deserve or conflict with their colleagues. If all the disappointment, dissatisfaction, anger, and intolerance of the people who report to the managers depress them, they will get overwhelmed (Zak 2011). Therefore, empathy in leaders can exhaust them.

One of the main differences between global teams that work and the ones that do not lie in the extent of social distance, the strength of emotional ties amid the members of the team. If team members all operate in the same space, the degree of social distance is typically low. Despite coming from diverse backgrounds, people may interconnect informally and officially, align, and generate trust (Singer 2015). This makes them come to a common notion of what usual behaviours imply, and they develop a sense of closeness and friendliness, which promotes good teamwork (Roberts 2014). Nevertheless, when co-workers are geographically isolated, they cannot easily interact and bond; thus, they experience increased degrees of social distance and find it hard to create effective interrelations. Regardless of the benefits of globalisation, lessening social distance is a crucial management problem for leaders of multinational corporations.


Though globalisation has reduced social distance and enhanced the success of multinational corporations, it has its challenges. Empathy is one of the problems of business undertakings, which could result in poor decision-making, especially when it concerns responding to the people that one likes. Overcoming the negative influence of empathy and challenges of globalisation in corporate social responsibility requires facing emotions with courage and mental strength. Courage enables the managers of an organisation to overcome the negative influence of empathy, while mental strength gives them the ability to endure challenges and seek effective ways of tackling them. Since emotions are exacerbated by responses to them, the greater the reactions, the higher the vitality the emotions create. Careful advance to emotions requires breaking off the responses of suppression and negative empathy through creating the capacity to embrace successful approaches. This could demand circumspectly evaluating emotions and not responding to the negative ones. Emotional connectedness and checked empathy are valuable for effective management and relationship with others, especially in demanding work conditions. Instead of taking on the feelings and problems of other people with empathy, the management should assist them in diffusing the problems and moving on.

The prevention of vicious dynamic from occurring has been at the heart of many research studies. This has been necessitated by the issue of misapprehensions within global teams, at times with expensive consequences. To avoid misunderstandings, channels of communication employed by global teams should be carefully considered. Being a social enterprise, shared benefits in organisations call for the creation of a balance between carrying out business practices and the improvement of the environmental and social situations in their locality. Unlike in moral imagination, where an individual is compelled to pursue what is right always, empathy makes people do what is correct but can also lead to one doing incorrect things. Effective altruism leads the management to initiate programmes for the benefit of all, particularly the less fortunate in the community.

Reference List

Aras, G & Crowther, D (eds) 2016, A handbook of corporate governance and social responsibility, 2nd edn, Routledge, New York, NY.

Bloom, P 2016, Against empathy: the case for rational compassion, Penguin Random House, New York, NY.

Bloom, P 2017, ‘Empathy and its discontents’, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 24-31.

Card, R 2005, ‘Individual responsibility within organizational contexts’, Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 62, no. 4, pp. 397-405.

Crane, A & Matten, D 2016, Business ethics, 4th edn, OUP, Oxford, United Kingdom.

Gino, F & Ariely, D 2012, ‘The dark side of creativity: original thinkers can be more dishonest’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 102, no. 3, pp. 445-448.

Kotlyar, I & Ariely, D 2013, ‘The effect of nonverbal cues on relationship formation’, Computers in Human Behaviour, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 544-551.

Roberts, R 2014, How Adam Smith can change your life: an unexpected guide to human nature and happiness, Penguin Random House, New York, NY.

Sandel, M 2012, What money can’t buy: the moral limits of markets, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, NY.

Sandel, M 2013, ‘Market reasoning as moral reasoning: why economists should re-engage with political philosophy’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 27, no. 4, pp. 121-140.

Singer, P 2015, The most good you can do: how effective altruism is changing ideas about living ethically, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.

Zak, P 2011, ‘Moral markets’, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, vol. 77, no. 2, pp. 212-233.

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