North Queensland. Winter. 10.00pm. So it’s just a little over 26 degrees. A mate of mine is working as a police officer in North Queensland. He gets a call to a job relating to a car stuck on a traffic island outside a football oval. The game has finished and everyone is heading home from the game.

When he arrives he sees the car is in fact stuck on the traffic island. All four (4) wheels are off the ground. The engine is running. There is only one person in the car and he is driving! At this time in Queensland, without permission, police needed a reason to intercept a vehicle for a roadside breath test. There is no such thing as RBT. This vehicle doesn’t need intercepting as it was going nowhere, but the driver certainly did!

My mate thinks quickly. He runs up alongside the driver side of the car and starts running on the sport, pretending he is running alongside the car while the car is driving along.

He calls out, ‘Police. Pull over. Police. Pull over.’ The driver of the car continues on completely oblivious to the calls. He calls out again only this time he taps on the driver’s window. The driver reacts to the tap on the window sees it’s the police and after the initial shock proceeds to slow the car down and very deftly pull the car over, indicating as he goes.

The driver immediately asks, ‘Is everything OK?’ My mate, pretending to be breathless, replies ‘Yes. Where are you going?’ The driver says, ‘On my way home.’ The police officer asks, ‘Where’s home?’ ‘Just around the next corner.’ he replies. ‘Are you alright mate’, the driver asks, ‘you look buggered. Have you been trying to catch up to me for very long?’ ‘A little while. Do you mind if I give you a roadside breath test?’ ‘No mate, go for it.’

My mate gets his breath test and needless to say, our driver is somewhat affected by the liquor he had consumed at the football match earlier that night.

The lesson we can all learn from this is developing empathy with someone can quickly turn things in your favour. Despite his intoxicated state, the driver felt for the police officer who in his mind had been running after him for some time. This immediately broke down barriers between the driver and the police. An almost instant rapport was established and my mate was able to get the driver to undertake a breath test. They had established empathy.

Given current market forces and business models, this is one step that has been largely lost on a lot of organisations and individuals. As the need to compete and win becomes more and more paramount, the notion of empathy for individuals and empathy displayed by organisations has dwindled to the point of insignificance.

Take Millenials for example. Many of the precious and pretentious behaviours Baby Boomers and Gen Xers attribute to millennials are the behaviours of a specific subset of mostly white, largely middle-class people born between 1981 and 1996. But even millennials who didn’t have a prosperous upbringing have been impacted by societal and cultural shifts that have shaped the group. They were reared during an age of relative economic and political stability. And, as with previous generations, there is always an expectation that the next one would be better off — both in terms of health and finances — than the one that had come before.

But as millennials enter into mid-adulthood, this expectation is not coming true. Financially speaking, most lag way behind the Boomers and Xers at the same age. They have far less saved, far less equity, far less stability, and far, far more student debt. Boomers had the golden age of capitalism; Gen-X had deregulation. And millennials? They have venture capital! Unfortunately, they also have the 2008 financial crisis, the decline of the middle class and the rise of the 1%, along with the steady decay of unions and the big one, reduction in stable, full-time employment.

As businesses become more efficient, better at turning a profit, the next generation needs to be positioned to compete. Millennials can’t expect to get and keep a job that would allow them to retire at 55-60. In a marked shift from the generations before, millennials need to optimise themselves to be the very best workers possible. This has lead to work burnout (prolonged stress that typically involves emotional exhaustion, cynicism or detachment and feeling ineffective) being experienced by Millennials. Something is missing.

Part Two to follow.

Shane Mallory

Shane is a performer, emcee, host, communicator, creative, mentor and innovative theatre director. He lives in Ipswich, Queensland with his wife Natalie, who are almost 'empty nesters' providing a home for their two daughters' dog and two cats.


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