Atlanta I-85 Bridge Collapse: The Powerful Role of Empathy

The scene: Today, as an Atlanta-based firm, we are grateful that our employee-owners and their families and friends are safe. The collapsed portion of I-85, one of the city’s and South’s major North-South arteries, miraculously resulted in zero injuries.

We now turn our attention to the aftermath. The inconveniences and traffic continue to mount – having a significant impact on the city’s basic ability to commute to work, home, school, childcare, and for many, long awaited and well-earned Spring Break trips.

In this age, when we as individuals and organizations are faced with unexpected events such as these, we take pause to consider what it means for employers and their employees.

The path forward: How will the city’s organizations communicate and empathize with their employees in the aftermath of this event? As with any moment in time of an employee’s experience, we advocate for organizations to keep empathy at the core of their decision-making and actions to ensure employees feel valued, respected and supported. Here’s how:

Because each organization and event is unique and there isn’t any one healing silver bullet, begin by asking yourself…

  • If we stand in the shoes of our employees, what kind of impact will this event have on their daily lives?
  • For those impacted, have we provided them the autonomy to take part in a flexible work arrangement or to telecommute, without judgement?
  • How can we quickly stand up flexible, remote work arrangements and policies to support our employees during this time?
  • How can we ensure employees feel empowered to make the right decisions about their needs and unexpected inconveniences as the highest priority during this time?
  • What actions can we take now and longer term to be better prepared to alleviate the hardship of such events on our employees?

How organizations react in crises speaks volumes to their authenticity and ability to truly empathize with their employees. Empathy is an integral part of designing and delivering a compelling employee experience. When exercised effectively, especially during trying times, it can serve to strengthen the relationship between an employee and employer and foster lasting engagement and advocacy.

With grateful hearts and the knowledge that hindsight is 20/20 perhaps this week’s events help us refocus on our ability to empathize with one another, as family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and employers.