If we found out 10,000 workers in India or China would lose their job tomorrow and one person in our immediate family will also lose their job the same day, which event would we feel more?
Or, for the EHS professional, if 500 workers on an opposite coast fell and died from high rise construction and one person in our company fell as well, which event would cause more change within our own company?
Such are the problems with empathy as described by Paul Bloom in a new book called “Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion.”
Bloom writes that when doctors and nurses (and I’d add EHS pros) create too strong of an empathic link with their patients and customers, their actions become driven by feelings alone and less about good policy and long-term effectiveness. It can also lead to short careers because of the pain they carry around.
Popular opinion? No. But Bloom’s ideas should resonate in an EHS community driven too often by quick fixes and knee-jerk “solutions.”
Watch Paul Bloom speak at the Carnegie Council for Ethics here.