In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

February 28, 2022

Voices of Mayo: Betty Butler on developing empathy, cultivating connection, creating accountability

By In the Loop
Betty Butler

During Black History Month, Mayo Clinic is sharing the experiences of Black colleagues and their thoughts on creating a culture of empathy, support and belonging at Mayo Clinic. This "Voices of Mayo" column features Betty Butler, an administrative assistant in Surgical Specialties at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato.


Betty Butler was born and raised in Chicago during a time when diverse cultures lived in the same neighborhood on the Southeast side. Butler, an administrative assistant in Surgical Specialties at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, chose the small-town life in Mankato to be closer to her son and his family.

She shares her experience of adjusting to life in a small town and learning Mayo Clinic's culture.


Growing up, I remember riding the 63rd Street "L" train west to the Ford City Mall, walking to the 63rd Street beach, going to Saturday morning story reading at the library, playing in the streets, and walking to Mrs. Brown’s house after school for my sewing lessons. I remember walking to the Woolworth store to shop and sitting at the fountain for a fantastic burger and milk shake. I also remember when John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy died. The neighborhoods changed drastically because of the unrest. It was a very scary time for children.

There are many things I can recall from a very young age. Some I wish I didn’t remember. Other things I cherish, like practicing for my debutante ball, learning how to curtsy, preparing my way into "polite society." We were encouraged to demonstrate good manners, grooming, social etiquette and learn different skills to prepare us for the world of work in white America. We participated in fundraisers, and some of us were members of the 4-H Club. At that time, it was about building wealth and giving back to the community. My family spoke about overcoming obstacle after obstacle and holding your head up.

I moved to Mankato for very personal reasons — to live near my son and his family, and to become more spiritually enriched. It has truly been a cultural change. But from the beginning, I wanted to stay focused on settling into a slower pace, if you will, and establish good employment.   

With a background in health care support, an MBA in Health Care Management that I had just completed, and a determination to grow in all aspects of my life, I pursued Mayo Clinic. It took approximately two years to become employed at Mayo.

When I tell you I felt a cultural shock when I moved from a big city to a small town, it was more intense within the walls of Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato. As a new employee in a new organization, with little training in how to navigate, you’re trying to go from point A and reaching the same point with no advantage. I struggled with trying to build relationships because, as you know, it takes two. Meanwhile, the spiritual enrichment part of my life was flourishing, growing and developing. 

I began to look at what I thought would surely prevent me from growing and developing new skills, and I began to understand why they were happening. For some people, diversity is scary. So, I worked through my challenges with a positive mindset. I enrolled in a training program to build and develop new skills. I created my own smart goals and gained strength from my spiritual journey. Instead of giving up, I focused on learning what Mayo expected of its employees after you are hired. 

I became more involved in events that encouraged staff and now am a member of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee, the GLOW MERG Executive committee, co-chair of the Community Outreach Subcommittee, and the Mankato YWCA Board of Directors.

Let me just say this about empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. One of the three components of empathy are found in Mayo values, and that’s compassion. The second component is the ability to identify and understand. And the third component is scary for some, and that is emotions or feelings. 

In the workplace, empathy in the simplest terms can mean connection. With a connection, we enhance relationships and performance. I have met so many different people — poor, rich and from so many backgrounds. My family raised me to cherish relationships, value them, learn and share and don’t just take, give back.

My hope for how Mayo Clinic can be a more inclusive place for all is to help those within the organization who are struggling, stress the importance of accountability, and follow up on the progress of that accountability. And create a real connection between leaders and staff. 


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Tags: Betty Butler, Employee Stories, Voices of Mayo

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