Trying to understand your co-worker’s viewpoint will leave you feeling drained and in need of more recovery after work according to new research from Trinity Business School. However,  it will leave your co-worker feeling supported.

The study looked at how perspective-taking at work affects both the person doing it and the person they’re trying to understand. The research was undertaken by Dr Wladislaw Rivkin, Associate Professor in Organisational Behaviour at Trinity Business School, and colleagues in Germany.

Organisations encourage perspective-taking among co-workers because it’s believed to help them support each other better. However, how it directly affects the well-being of those involved is still not fully understood.

Having studied employees taking the perspectives of colleagues every day for two weeks, Rivkin and his colleagues found that when an employee tried to understand their co-worker’s perspective, it had a positive effect on that co-worker – leaving them feeling supported.

However, it had a negative impact on the well-being of the employee who takes their co-workers’ perspective, leaving them feeling drained and depleted of their own resources. This highlights the delicate balance between fostering empathy and preserving one’s mental resources.

Reflecting on the study, Dr Rivkin said:

Stepping into your co-workers shoes by viewing work- related challenges from their perspective is definitely helpful for our colleagues. To ensure that it doesn’t harm our own well-being, it is important to consider our mental resources and engage in perspective-taking only when we feel energised.

Dr Wladislaw Rivkin, Associate Professor in Organisational Behaviour at Trinity Business School

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Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.