Simpatia: putting yourself in someone else’s shoes
How managers interact and communicate with employees has always been a vital ingredient in the work environment. One aspect of this relationship that has received increased attention in management studies over the last few years is empathy. Empathy can be described as the ability of someone to understand what another person is experiencing. In other words, putting yourself in another person’s shoes. A key characteristic of empathy is the support of others using skills such as active listening, encouragement, and motivation. There’s no denying that increasing one’s empathetic skills in the workplace can improve social skills and workplace relationships.
As I’ve noted previously on this blog, Hispanic culture is very much people-oriented; Hispanics value relationships and often demonstrate behaviors that promote strong and agreeable interactions. Hispanics value a person’s ability to maintain these cordial and positive relationships even in the face of adversity or stress. This cultural concept is known as simpatia.
Simpatia is an intrinsic quality in Hispanics; one that does not have a clear translation. The concept produces a strong sense of connection. Similar to empathy, simpatia highlights a person’s ability to identify with others’ feelings, and therefore, considers others with formality and respect. Minimizing confrontational situations and maintaining agreement is an important element of simpatia. This might translate into an individual encouraging harmonious social relationships and preferring cooperation over competition.
So what might this mean to a manager supervising a Hispanic intern? Some Hispanic interns might not feel comfortable openly criticizing or expressing disagreement, particularly when it relates to their supervisor, department, or team. Therefore, when it comes to asking for or sharing feedback, managers should assure to first develop strong relationships with Hispanic interns. If certain conversations are sensitive in nature or involve constructive criticism, discuss these matters privately to determine what your intern really thinks. Public interactions might not accurately reflect a Hispanic intern’s personal perspective.
Another recommendation would be to be more aware of your intern’s intrinsic motivations – become sensitive to his or her true perceptions. Keep in mind that Hispanics come from a collectivist background. The interests of the group are considered more important than individual. Be aware that in order to maintain group harmony and cohesion, Hispanics might be more diplomatic, supportive, and trusting in work settings. Because of simpatia, keep in mind that an intern’s personal attitude and behavior might deviate slightly from that shown in a public setting.