Authenticity and Empathy

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“The rakyat is our first and utmost priority. As civil servants, we must continue to demonstrate empathy, understanding the people’s needs and adding value to our services for them that will address those needs.”

This is something that I have said sometime ago, which bears repeating because it is a message that we must all internalize and apply in our day-today lives as civil servants.

In our quest to become a world class civil service organization, we have not been remiss in providing opportunities for our staff to continuously upgrade their competencies and expand their exposures and experiences. These efforts have borne fruits as our SCS organisation has in fact merited international recognition for some of our innovative approaches.

We have also upgraded, in significant measure, most of our SCS facilities and offices throughout Sarawak, ensuring that our staff will have a conducive and safe working environment. In the same token, we have also introduced innovative facilities that facilitated access to government services for the people, such as our “Service Sarawak”
centres and all our e-government platforms and apps thus far.

Indeed, we continue to keep abreast of new methods, approaches and innovations in order to be in pace with the best civil service organisations in the world. With the continuous improvement systems and approaches, especially in the use of technologies, as well as dynamic training and competency building programmes that we have for our civil service staff, I am confident that we are on track to become a world class organisation.

However, we must not lose sight of the simple fact that what will make us truly world class is in the extent of how we have demonstrated our sense of empathy and using that quality to help us in our tasks of making peoples’ lives better and easier.

Most of us are usually excited to apply the latest management principles we have learned, which is well and good. But I would like all of us in the employ of the SCS not to forget the value of our real life experiences as a vital resource in our day-to-day tasks of decision-making. Far too often, we forget that the best way we can address the peoples’ needs and serve them better is for us to look at our “life” outside the walls of our offices.

Professor Peter Shergold, a distinguished public service veteran, asserted that to be effective servant leaders, which all civil servants are called to be, “authenticity is vital”. This means that all of us must bring our complete self – not just our formal qualifications, training and knowledge – but more so, our real world knowledge of issues and situations as part of our evidence based decision making tasks. Simply stated, if we take pains to imagine standing in the shoes of others and draw upon our own life experiences and situations, we would be able to clearly see how a certain decision, policy or action that we are working on will impact the lives of the people that we serve.

As we ushered in 2020, the news of the Covid-19 virus and the challenging realities when it reached our shores, confronted us. Soon enough, on 18th March, our country had no choice but to declare the Movement Control Order (MCO) as a way to deal with the pandemic.

With this pandemic, the likes of which none of us had seen nor experienced before, and we had to force every citizen to stay at home, there are those who simply cannot. Our political leaders and civil servants have to keep the machinery of our government running to ensure that our country remains safe and the citizens do not suffer unnecessarily. What will keep us,and will continue to keep us strong and motivated in doing what’s best for the people that we serve, is our sense of empathy and our authenticity even as we are called to make difficult decisions sometimes. We realize that what will be best for our own families, communities and ourselves will likely be the best for others, too.

To quote Stephen Covey, management guru: “When we show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems”.

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