We have written before about the importance of empathy in risk management, but in this installment, we want to talk about risk empathy, which is quite different. Risk empathy is the practice of the risk manager designing the risk management practices of the organization with empathy towards those workers and volunteers who need to implement the risk management practices.
The first piece of empathy that a risk manager needs is to appreciate the fact that the employees, as well as the volunteers of the organization, will rarely have the same understanding and appreciation of risk management practices as the risk manager themselves do. Closing this comprehension gap involves training not only the workers of the organization in risk management principles but also educating the risk management team on the level and range of the risk comprehension level of the organization’s workers and stakeholders. Board members, in particular, may be quite unaware of the whys and hows of risk management and it may be with this group of stakeholders that the empathy gap may be widest.
It is very easy to assume that everyone has the same level of knowledge and wisdom as you do about risk management (or about any topic of relevance for that matter). The reality is that is rarely the case. The reality with risk management is that if everyone is not up to a base level of understanding, then risk practices are likely to be misapplied, ignored, or worse still scorned and resented.
The second piece of risk empathy is to understand the implications of implementing the risk practices. Are the suggested risk practices difficult to implement? Do the risk practices take a lot of time, effort or energy? Are the risk practices demoralizing or condescending? Is risk management seen as “The department of No!” or as “The Department of How Can We Do It More Intelligently?”
Risk management is about people. Risk is mostly caused by people, and risk is mostly managed through people. Understanding and managing people requires empathy. For this reason, risk empathy is key to good risk management.
Rick Nason and Omer Livvarcin are authors of the book Risk Management for Non-Profit Organizations, published by Business Expert Press