Alibaba founder and billionaire Jack Ma recently made the news for praising 72-hour work weeks and the rewards that come from long hours.
A recent New York Times editorial on this topic notes that firms like Uber and WeWork use slogans that celebrate “hustle culture” despite evidence that working too much leads to poor performance.
There’s nothing wrong with hustle but what may be missing from Ma’s (and others’) thought process is empathy. Some people can sleep soundly for 5 hours and be ready for a 12-hour workday, 6 days a week without health problems. Others need more sleep, have family or community obligations, or need to live far from work. There are enough studies to say that the majority of humans suffer physically and mentally when working too many hours, but without empathy, it’s easy to conclude that someone who works less than you is less motivated.
Google “empathy” and you will find dozens of articles like this one discussing its importance for long term leadership success. But it’s not only CEOs that need practice; next time you feel judgmental or upset with someone, try imagining yourself in their shoes. It may not change your outcome, but it should challenge you to think differently and that’s good for your brain.
How can empathy improve your work? How can you encourage empathy in your organization? How can empathy improve your life?