ORIENTATION : Empathy is a core competency in aiding individuals to address the challenges of social living. An indicator of emotional intelligence, it is useful in a globalising and cosmopolitan world. Moreover, managing staff, stakeholders and conflict in many social settings relies on communicative skills, of which empathy forms a large part. Empathy plays a pivotal role in negotiating, persuading and influencing behaviour. The skill of being able to empathise thus enables the possessor to attune to the needs of clients and employees and provides opportunities to become responsive to these needs.
RESEARCH PURPOSE : This study attempted to determine the construct validity of the Multi-dimensional Emotional Empathy Scale within the South African context.
MOTIVATION FOR THE STUDY : In South Africa, a large number of psychometrical instruments have been adopted directly from abroad. Studies determining the construct validity of several of these imported instruments, however, have shown that these instruments are not suited for use in the South African context.
RESEARCH DESIGN, APPROACH AND METHOD : The study was based on a quantitative research method with a survey design. A convenience sample of 212 respondents completed the Multi-dimensional Emotional Empathy Scale. The constructs explored were Suffering, Positive Sharing, Responsive Crying, Emotional Attention, a Feel for Others and Emotional Contagion. The statistical procedure used was a confirmatory factor analysis.
MAIN FINDINGS : The study showed that, from a South African perspective, the Multi-dimensional Emotional Empathy Scale lacks sufficient construct validity.
PRACTICAL / MANAGERIAL IMPLICATIONS : Further refinement of the model would provide valuable information that would aid people to be more appreciative of individual contributions, to meet client needs and to understand the motivations of others.
CONTRIBUTION / VALUE-ADD : From a South African perspective, the findings of this study are significant in that the data indicate potential for measuring emotional empathy in the workplace. Research into emotional empathy in South Africa, however, is limited and additional studies could deepen the case for the Scale's applicability and validity.