Why Empathy Separates Good Managers From Great Ones

The best practices in management seem to change from year to year or even month-to-month, but there’s one skill in particular that will never go out of style, empathy. As a coach, who works with managers and leaders of all types, I can honestly say the difference between a good manager and a great manager comes down to how much empathy they have and how they apply it.

Here’s why empathy is so vital in management and how it makes managers stand out above the rest.

Empathy & social skills are social intelligence, the interpersonal part of

EQ. That’s why they look alike. – Daniel Goleman

The Importance of Empathy in Management

In the past, if you were to propose that empathy was an important attribute to have as a manager, you would receive a lukewarm if not outright hostile reaction. Older models of management emphasized qualities that are the exact opposite of the skills that are valued today. These models are now highly outdated and unacceptable in today’s market. They encouraged managers to be harsh, stern, cold, unfeeling, and unrelenting as well as decidedly indifferent to the condition and interests of employees.

This iron fist approach to management hearkens to tyrannical practices that were once thought to help drive efficiency. Times have changed however and we now know that a gentler more diligent approach to management is in fact much more effective.

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Employees that feel like their manager doesn’t care about them will be ultimately less productive at work. The key skill for managers to hone and exercise today is empathy. You’ll find that when it comes to directing employees, a little empathy goes a long way. Your workforce will feel significantly more motivated and empowered to do their jobs more effectively which will make them markedly more productive.

One of the situations where empathy is most important is in organizing staffing scheduling. When it comes to staffing schedules, employees will be especially sensitive to anything that they perceive as unfair. Keeping your workforce happy and engaged is a primary if unwritten responsibility of any great manager. Achieving this requires managers to pay attention to employee concerns and be as fair as possible. While you can’t go as far as scheduling in a way that would be detrimental to the company, you will still need to keep it balanced between the company’s deadlines and the value of each individual employee.

Some employees are more valuable than others and being empathetic to them can help keep them at peak productivity.

Fighting the Stigma

One of the biggest challenges that are holding managers back from their full potential is the residual stigma out there that derides empathetic manager as weak or soft leaders. In today’s intensely competitive business environment managers typically put a great deal of effort into avoiding any inference of weakness.

The problem here is that being empathetic as a manager isn’t a weakness it’s a strength, but perceptions are slow to change. The manager who recognizes the true potential of empathy actually has a better chance of succeeding than a manager who puts the squeeze to their employees. No one wants to work for a tyrant. Some will tolerate it, but by and large, folks won’t do a very good job or show any significant dedication to a company under rigid or adverse conditions.

The best way to change these perceptions is to lead by example. Take the lead and start exercising empathy in the workplace. You’ll be surprised how much productivity will increase when you apply empathy properly.

Advantages of Exercising Empathy as a Manager

Two of the most important qualities in a manager are listening and responding to an employee with a sense of empathy. By exhibiting these two simple qualities, your employees will make better decisions and be markedly more engaged with their work meaning that they will be much more productive at their jobs.

Why it Pays to Show Empathy

Being empathetic as a manager will help you and your company achieve several important goals. Here are some of the major benefits that you will see in your workforce when you are more empathetic.

  • A happier and more productive workforce.
  • More employee innovation.
  • Increased employee engagement.
  • Workers that are eager to work longer and harder.
  • Smoother workflow and a significant reduction in conflicts.
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The Dividing Line Between a Good Manager and a Great One

Only around 40% of managers exercise empathy actively or effectively. Whether it’s due to the associated stigma or their own personality types is unknown, but what we do know is that this disparity represents a significant amount of inefficiency in leadership.

A good manager will do just enough to keep the workplace running without encountering any major problems, in other words, something just above the bare minimum. On the other hand, a great manager will be empathetic to their employees and tend to their concerns in a way that will keep things not only running smoothly but more productively. If you pay attention to your employees and actually listen to their interests and concerns, you will have a much more motivated workforce that will go the extra mile and then some.

The Floor Is Yours: 

How important is empathy

in (and out of) the workplace?

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