When Empathy Collides With Emotions

A very important element is compassion, which comes from a place of love and understanding towards another.

It was a Friday afternoon, and I was running late for the afternoon shift at a call center run by a company called PIVA. I was a newly trained call center specialist, so my day-to-day tasks and responsibilities had always been relatively simple. But today, it was different: a colleague from this morning was getting a divorce and the company didn’t even know about it. I was shocked to hear the details of the divorce and told my manager about the situation, which was not well received. My manager didn’t think I really understood the situation and told me I should just keep quiet and listen to the facts, then I would be able to take my role in the matter seriously and see the situation to its end. I replied that this wasn’t the way to approach it and that I felt a personal connection with my colleague and wanted to help, so I would do as my manager had advised.

I was called in the evening to a crisis meeting. The team we were trying to contact was already working overtime and didn’t have enough time to do a call with one another. Instead, we simply called each other and we were asked why we were calling. “Are you angry about her divorce?” they asked. We explained that we were not talking about any of the situation: we were simply trying to figure out what I was thinking and what was going on in my head. They assured us we wouldn’t be fired for calling each other.

“We don’t have hours to go around, please sit down,” my manager said. We did, and we spent the next 6 hours on a phone call with the manager. The first question the manager asked me was how I had been coping with my role. He knew that I, like everybody in the company, had come from an uneducated background; I was the only new hire to have started working at PIVA. He said he was glad to meet me after my training since he was hoping it would help me cope with my new job and make me more of a team player. He wanted to know why I felt so angry about the divorce; and he said he understood how many divorces could be crushing and painful for people, but that he was concerned about how it was affecting me personally. He said that what I was experiencing was really unfortunate; if I could turn it around, a professional relationship was possible between us.

As this was an important moment for me, I was very anxious about how this manager would be treating me, which was a very uncomfortable feeling. It was really hard to know if a manager meant the same things to me that I felt, that he or she wasn’t at all a monster.

I also started to feel how his tone in every question and his tone in every answer made me feel like he wasn’t actually being sincere when he talked to me today. In fact, he was acting as if it was some big deal, like he wouldn’t really care if I was depressed. I was very disappointed and it was making me feel extremely insecure.

The manager eventually told me that I could go home and that I’d get my own job soon enough.

I didn’t want to leave my friends and I took a couple of time off to get away from the situation. Then, I realized that I just wanted to take my time and calm down. I wanted to go back as soon as I was ready and that’s what turned out to be the case. While I was at work, I didn’t have to hear what was being said to me over and over every single day, but my boss kept yelling at me about how everything was my fault and I should do it better as if I was doing a job that could be blamed on me.

I decided to return to work, but I didn’t tell the management at all that I wasn’t coping well.