Photo: Cope, Adapt, Innovate

Cope, Adapt, and Innovate: Why Empathy Is a Better Way to Gage Your Work Day

Posted on August 03, 2022 by Rachel Hettinger, TPF Fellow 2022/23
As busy professionals, we can sometimes forget that we all wear many hats. Yes, we are workers, but also spouses, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, friends, artists, dancers, hikers, dog moms, and cat dads. The many hats we each wear make us each unique as the human beings that we are, and we are human beings first. With that said, when life happens, we need to put our empathy hats on and recognize the humanity that we all share.

This is the perspective TPF takes through Cope, Adapt, and Innovate, the three distinct phases of disaster recovery. These phases also apply to life in general; they are not linear and fluctuate as life happens.

I was in the adapting phase after officially working for The Patterson Foundation for one month and adjusting to my new work life when I tested positive for COVID. At first, I was sure it was just the flu, but then the flu medication quit working, and I felt worse. Upon taking a COVID test, which TPF so graciously provided me with along with crumble cookies, I tested positive and was knocked down to the coping phase.

This was a real bummer. I thought I was long past coping with a big life change, a move, and starting my career in my dream position. I was adapting to working on multiple projects and initiatives at one time and getting to know my colleagues. I could see innovation coming on the horizon with bigger projects to start and new muscles to build. But life happened, and as I put on my coping hat, TPFers put on their empathy hats.

Stacey Gadeken was brave enough to come to the apartment of COVID doom and drop off delicious crumble cookies and COVID tests. My fellow Fellow, Michael Zimmerman, called me with a plan to help as he just had COVID at the end of May. This led to a miracle prescription and time to rest because, with their empathy hats in full force, my colleagues recognized that I was in the coping stage and therefore needed work to align with how I was feeling.

That is the thing with keeping cope, adapt, and innovate in mind. You can recognize that people cannot do innovative work or give creative ideas when they’re in the coping phase. It is unrealistic to expect anyone to do their work full force and effectively when one of their hats was blown off their head. When we put each other and ourselves as human beings first, we can take the time to reflect on what stage we are in on any given day. At this level of awareness, we can find fresh ways to work, live, and play.

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