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A Career in Facilities Management Requires Empathy

Understanding how an individual works can help improve team morale.   July 29, 2022


By Charles M. Thomas, Contributing Writer


We’ve all had that end user that would not let up on an issue. We’ve all had the vendor that is not willing to comply or compromise on scheduling, scope of work and more. It takes a certain mindset toward a goal and effective change to be fine with those circumstances. It takes a different type of mindset as a facilities manager (FM) to be able to recognize what’s going on in a situation, take a second to troubleshoot, pivot the action or way of communication and deal with what may come up on a psychological level. Even in an industry where you and your team are only as great as the end user and major stakeholders are happy, many FM’s do not think that what we do isn’t tied to the people and psychological game. There are many traits that play a part of our role as FMs, but understanding our team members can further the progress a facilities program seeks to make.  

The amount of influence a facility operations program can have on individuals is often unrecognized. Our involvement throughout the organization can easily blend into other opportunities for the dept to shine and provide indirect leadership. To thrive in this area, an understanding of empathy is key. A tier 1 facilities manager must understand the importance of developing the ability to know and share the feelings of another individual. Trying to force a situation to run a certain way without receiving input from others will only leave people feeling frustrated in the end. Taking the path toward understanding and making compromises produces great results for everybody involved. This empathetic mindset is a challenge toward working together with everyone that is necessary for healthy relationships to be cultivated, sustained and enjoyed. It’s not that every outcome will always be exactly what you thought, but a great deal of significance will be produced based on your intentions, drive, willpower and empathy that is exercised. 

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There will be the time when a facilities manager is challenged on a psychological level and won’t even recognize it. Often times a team member will require empathy from their boss without giving them all the details. In these cases, it’s important to listen first rather than talking first. At all times we must keep in mind that we never know what’s going on with another person. As professionals in this industry, it’s necessary to conduct yourself in this manner because we are not only in the business of taking care of a structure. Day in and day out we are submerged with the people we interact with and are at service to. 

The FM that is continuously in pursuit of mastering the “people” game will easily set themselves apart from the pack. Keeping the switch always turned on and being the individual that downright understands will easily allow for professional strides. Empathy is just one of those tools everyone should keep in their figurative tool bag and should consistently be polished. Exercising the art of the pause, thinking first before going into any kind of action is the secret weapon an FM must bring to the table for any working relationship. Like it or not, FMs deal with others. It’s something to be aware of, something to learn and something to execute any chance that we get. 

Charles M. Thomas (cthomas@lacemgt.com) is a Facility Operations Consultant with LACE Management Services. He has 10 years of facility operations management experience working among the research, education, financial, and public relations industries, with skills in operations, strategic planning, project management, and office community relations.

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