For the rest of the summer, we will feature Respect Tips inspired by the Why Respect Matters section of the recently released Respect Effect by Paul Meshanko.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was laid off from my first position after graduate school, working there less than a year. It was a devastating situation on many levels. But what made it less traumatic was the support I received from my former supervisor.

She had hired me not knowing that my position, as well as several others, would be eliminated such a short time later. We had connected because we were both from Ohio and came to work in our industry taking a similar non-traditional path to get there. She and I had also developed a strong personal and professional relationship, because we worked together so closely on projects.

So, I wasn’t surprised that she was my biggest supporter and the one who empathized with me the most after a situation she had no control over. I later learned that a couple of years prior she had also been downsized from a similar position at another museum. In the months and even years later, she was always there to give me a job lead, serve as a reference and above all just listen and empathize with this set-back so early in my career.

The power of empathy

The sheer ability to relate to someone else’s struggles is the power of empathy. The fact that my former supervisor had been in a previous situation like mine only helped. But it doesn’t mean that to empathize with a set-back or loss we have to have had the same experience. It only means that we are able to emotionally relate in some way.

I think it’s safe to say that most, if not all of us, have experienced some sort of loss, whether personal or professional. We just need to tune into those emotions when relating to colleagues in similar situations in the workplace to make them to feel respected.