Why empathy can hurt your career and make you less successful



Leaders need to put the
organization first.

CBS/Getty

Psychologists say empathy isn’t always a good thing in
business.

• Being too empathetic could mean putting your team’s
needs ahead of yours, and the needs of your business.

• Multiple anecdotes about powerful execs show how
empathy can affect decisions.

If you’re planning to climb the corporate hierarchy, you may
need to place a limit on how much you feel for others.

Experts say too much empathy can hurt your success in business,
and examples abound of execs who made decisions that benefitted
the company but may have hurt their employees or their friends.

As Business Insider’s
Alyson Shontell has reported
, Mark Zuckerberg “famously
ousted his former friend, Eduardo Saverin, from Facebook after
stealing his business idea from the Winklevoss twins.” Meanwhile,
Steve Jobs had a “good” side and a “bad” side, according to his
biographer Walter Isaacson, and once addressed everyone in a
meeting with a series of expletives.

One acquaintance of former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick even
told Shontell
that Uber wouldn’t have gotten to where it is
today if Kalanick hadn’t been something of a jerk.

And according to Ashlee Vance’s 2015 book, “Elon
Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
,”
when Musk’s assistant asked for a raise, Musk told her to take
two weeks off, during which he would assume her duties and see if
she was really critical to his success. When the assistant
returned, Musk
reportedly told her
he didn’t need her anymore. Musk has
since said
that account isn’t accurate
, and that his assistant got a
year of severance pay and left for another job.

However, the running theme among those anecdotes is obvious:
Business first.

As psychologists Robin Stern and Diane Divecha write in
Psychology Today
, overly empathetic people “may have a
diminished ability…

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