Empathy for being a good manager

20 October 2015 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Today’s businesses employ a large number of employees with different strengths and weaknesses. Employees managed by their emotions and personal aspirations contribute towards the organisational goals in different manner, even if the organisation wants employees to be fully committed to the task assigned to them. Hence, the need to empathize colleagues and subordinates has been emphasized over the years. As it was understood that being hard on employees would deliver worse outcomes, businesses had to change their people-managing strategies. By today, the manager is assigned with the task of treating employees as partners of the business success and helping them achieve work-life balance which will take business forward. 

A manager is simply the person who manages. Furthermore, the manager is responsible for planning and directing the work of a group of individuals, monitoring their work and taking corrective actions whenever necessary. Despite the diversity of designations, the primary tasks remain more or less the same. It is said that the manger should be empathetic in implementing the above-mentioned tasks. That will pave the way for him to be a good manager. 

As defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary, empathy is the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions or the ability to share someone else’s feelings. A formal definition of empathy is the ability to identify and understand another’s situation, feelings and motives. It is our capacity to recognize the concerns that other people have. Empathy means putting yourself in the other person’s shoes or seeing things through someone else’s eyes. Furthermore, it is considered to be a driver of connection tying employees and managers together for a better partnership to serve the customers. 
There are numerous studies that attempted to reveal the relationship between empathy and better business outcomes. Empathy is the oil that keeps relationships running smoothly. The fact that empathy is an important component of effective relationships has been proven over the years. Even if it remains easy to see people that have to a certain extent attained success in their careers, because of excellent technical abilities, what cannot be easily seen is that people have got stuck with the glass ceiling, due to the lack of people skills. Although any people are confident that they can develop new technical skills and knowledge through training and experience, empathy can be learned by understanding what it is. 


Connection 
Empathy is the driver of connections. As the world is full of other people, you can’t escape their influence on your life and be alone. It means that we interact with each other in our day-to-day activities. The strength of relations among people clearly depicts how effective those relations are. Specially, when it comes to business, it is all about connections, be it connections among employees, customers and shareholders so and so forth. For an example, the nature of connections between the products and customers can ensure how long the company will operate. However, it is expected to have a discussion about the connection between the boss and employees. 

Empathy is valued currency. It allows us to create bonds of trust giving insights into what others may be feeling or thinking. It helps us understand how or why others are reacting to situations and sharpens our people acumen which can be considered a competitive advantage in business. 

For teams are comprised of diverse people having different skills, it does not remain an easy task to build strong relations among team members, so that they will contribute towards the big picture. The empathetic manager never hesitates to recognize team members as they are; why they think so and respond to the prevailing situation like this. It is when the leader reads the pulse of team members that connections become stronger, paving the way for rapidly moving forward in the competitive market. 


Relevance 
It is needless to mention that highly performing employees can make a business more competitive than others in the same industry. These employees come from different socio-economic backgrounds, their attitudes, performance, productivity and strategies can vary from person to person. However, all those skills should be taken to the expected level, when acting as a team. None of these things can be done without being empathetic on others. Before assigning a task to an individual, a manager must be aware of his strengths and weaknesses. 

Even if what happens is that managers want their subordinates to look at something in their perspective, what should be and what the empathetic manager does is that he makes an attempt to look at things in the employees’ perspectives which might open a window of opportunities which of course couldn’t be seen in the manager’s perspective. As business is about people, having a look at a product or a conflict in several perspectives that represent different strata remains important. 

Furthermore, human beings always stay volatile. In other words, the mentality might change from time to time. That is why empathy must be there, when employees are provided with work. Whatever said and done, as people are controlled by their emotions rather than their intelligence, the ability to read emotions is a must in dealing with people and getting things done. 


Outcomes 
An empathetic manager could deliver better business outcomes than a manager does. Empathy clearly demarcates the boundaries which differentiate the manner in which machines are dealt with from the manner people are dealt with. The manager, who understands this, is capable of getting things done more efficiently and solving conflicts amicably. Empathy produces not only good managers but also great leaders. The person who empathises others is spontaneously selected by people around him as a leader. 

When you see beyond your own world, you will realize that there is so much to learn. This inevitably pushes you to explore how others’ feelings can have an impact on the organisational culture, performance and strategies. Once employees see you as an empathetic manager, they tend to place their trust on you unprecedentedly. The final outcome is strong relations between you and employees, resulting in co-operation and collaboration. Empathetic manager can make employees more loyal to the company, increasing retention rate, engagement and performance etc.

Accordingly, it can be stated that empathy is a skill that can be learned and then improved for being a good manager. It is important for not only HR professionals but also all the professionals who deal with people with heart not to forget human aspects of business. 

 (Amila Muthukutti holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Colombo and can be reached at amilasmiles@gmail.com)
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