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Santosh Yadav for This is Learning

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How empathy from my manager changed my life

Cover photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash.

"You should always try to be a better person than you were yesterday."

I genuinely believe in the above quote and try my best to do it every day. But a few years back, I was not the same person. When I started my job, my dad was more concerned about my short-tempered behavior. Yes, I never used to tolerate if something wrong is happening or someone is rude to me. I always fought back, no matter who the person is. I had a simple thing: be nice to friendly people and arrogant/rude fight back. Some of you may think, nothing wrong here, but believe me; this started impacting my personal life once I was married and had a little angel in our life.

How it Started

Here is a story, how I changed it or learned a lesson, which made me change this attitude.

After three years in my career, I started working with a Startup. One good thing about startups is your work is more visible. If you perform better, you may find yourself rising the ladder quickly. That's what happened; within a year, I found myself leading Team. In 2 years more responsibility, before I move ahead, let me clear this, I always took care of my Team, fought for them when needed.

So what was the issue? The issue was with other teams within the organizations. For example, if they did something that breaks something, the infra team had no idea why one Prod server goes down daily. Or the testing team, having no idea how a bug made to Prod.

I always used to speak to them rudely as that's the job they have to do, or sending some strong email, keeping everyone in the mail from CEO to my manager.

There are many incidents, which, if I think now, makes me sad. I had no empathy for other teams. Being a leader means taking everyone together; I always thought about my Team.

Around 2014, we had some changes within the organization. A new VP of tech joined. He quickly earned the Team's trust, and I also started admiring him for his people management skill.

The Incident

We had a big project to deliver; it was an API to expose to one of the largest Indian banks. The only problem was time; we had to give it early. We started working and built the entire system within 2-3 weeks. We decided to use MongoDB as the DB, but just days before the launch, the server stopped, and no one could recover.

We had two options, create a new server or move to an SQL server. After some discussion, we decided to move to SQL server because if it happened again on production, that would be terrible.

We moved the DB layer to SQL, as the API was structured correctly, it was a quick change, and we completed and tested it in the next two days. We had to stay in the office for two days, but we did it on the 3rd-day early morning; once our manager was in the office, we updated him on the progress and left for home. I was exhausted, and as soon as I reached home, I decided to sleep.

Around 4:30 pm, I started receiving calls and messages that API is not working. It was from another team member, whom my manager asked to test once. Even my team member who was working with me called me asked if I have some ideas. I asked her not to worry, as we knew it was working before we left. But we kept getting calls, so we decided to go to the office and reached the office at 10 pm IST.

The team member who was calling us met us outside the office and asked why we are here. I said, because you kept calling, nothing is working. He said no, everything is working. I was angry; I said nothing to him, went into the office, and called my manager. I spoke rudely, and even he said everything is working fine.

As I said, I was always short-tempered. I said, "Not to give my work to anyone else ever." and disconnected my call; yeah, I know it's rude.

The lesson

We decided to stay in the office and did some optimization on DB, and catch some sleep. My manager came early, around 7 am, to the office. I was still pissed off but was scared as well. I mean, I should be; he was VP of Tech, he could have asked me to resign for what I did.

I was trying to avoid eye contact, but he came straight to me and asked, "santy did you ate anything?" I was shocked and was almost cried and said: "No," and he said, "I know a great place, they should be open now, let me order the best Shawarma for all of us." and called another team member to bring it while coming to the office.

That was the exact moment I realized I was missing empathy from my life; fighting for what is right is ok, but getting angry is not. Wars are won together and not alone.

"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." —African Proverb.

I realized I was fighting with the people on my side, and I can make things better by working with them and not fighting with them. Same in my personal life, my wife was always with me when I needed to, but was I doing the same?

As a father a husband, I changed as a person. I started controlling my anger, trying to be a better person than I was yesterday. It's been more than 5 yrs now, that incident happened. I am always thankful to my manager for teaching me empathy. I know other managers may have given me a warning or even fired me. Still, he decided to teach me a better lesson, which changed me professionally and personally.

I remember in 2018, during the performance review, my manager at DB said

"Santosh, I want to learn one thing from you. How are you always so calm while working with other team members when they don't understand and keep making mistakes?"

That was the proof. I learned a lesson and applied it in my life.

I don't want to conclude anything, but before you react to something wrong, give it a thought. Maybe you will hurt people who care about you or always had your back when you needed them most. Or your team member is struggling with something, rather than being rude, help them resolve the issue.

Top comments (3)

seemcat profile image
Maricris Bonzo

Thank you for sharing your story. It brought tears to my eyes. I've struggled with anger issues my whole life, and only when I became aware that my negative energy was hurting others around me did I realize that I needed to build a sense of empathy and compassion, for others as well as myself. I'm so happy to know that you've found a path to a more joyful life.

anuradhakumari profile image

I could have never thought that you were once short tempered. You are so humble and helpful. kudos to you for accepting your mistake and improving so much on it, and thanks for writing about it 🙌
No person is perfect but the best ones are who try to be better versions of themselves daily 💖

jalpeshvadgama profile image
jalpesh Vadgama

Great article. Empathy always works and that is my thought on this.