• Ananya Misra

Why Empathy Is Important In Leadership

Ever worked for a crappy boss that made you feel like a fly on the wall? Unheard, ignored and made to toil away without any recognition or empathy?

Chances are high most of us at some point in our salaried lives have had to bear the misfortune of having such bosses!

In many ways, these categories of people are similar to blood-sucking leeches. They swell upon the blood of your hard work and get promoted while you helplessly trudge your way through the dense thickets of the corporate jungle.

Here are a few trademarks of these kinds of bosses:

They Don't Read Emails From Their Staff

The result?

A complete disconnect with the team.

Take the example of Ram. He is a sincere, dedicated, hard-working employee. From morning, Ram has sent 5 high priority mails to his boss flagging off an urgent problem that's tripping up his work. He has got zero response to any of his 5 mails. End of the day, the boss finally logs back into his work computer to pull him up for why he couldn't achieve the target!

Ram feels majorly demotivated, he feels his problems are not heard, and he starts losing interest in his job.

They Hear But Don't Listen

Ram is having a bad day at work. Even after doing his best, he has had demanding clients breathe fire down his neck. Plus, things at home are not great either. His kid has been running a high fever for the past 4 days. He is worried and upset.

He walks up to his boss, hoping to have a meaningful conversation and share his troubles.

The result?

The boss nods and then gently reminds him of the company's bottom line and how his salary needs to be 'justified'. The boss makes him acutely aware of how easily replaceable he is.

Ram comes out feeling even more miserable than before. His workplace, which had felt like a family all along, starts appearing little more than a heartless profit-making machine. A factory for minting dollars at the cost of its employees' wellbeing and happiness.

They Are Never Available

Ram has noticed his boss is never at his seat, never available when he needs his help or advice.

While he initially put that down to how busy he must be with countless meetings, time has made him wiser.

For often these days, he has noticed his boss having quite an enjoyable time hanging out at the cafeteria chatting up pretty female colleagues.

Or enjoying animated debates about the future of politics overextended tea breaks with his other buddies.

Or simply chilling out at the snooker table.

Ram feels helpless and doesn't know who to reach out to when he gets stuck at his work.

Almost like no one cares!

These types of bosses lack empathy, have communication skills that range from poor to non-existent, have no sense of responsibility towards their team members and consider getting work done by their staff with minimal contribution from their end as a yardstick for smart work.

These people in general serve to bring down the team productivity, create disgruntlement among employees, and lead to a negative environment in the workplace.

Now let's look at the other kind.

Have you had a boss who does the following?

  • · Responds proactively to your emails

  • · Acknowledges your hard work and takes an effort to show they care

  • · Listens to your problems and tries to take some sort of action to address the same

  • · Reaches out to you when you get stuck and tries to get to the root of the problem

  • · Asks for regular feedback from you to understand how they are performing

  • · Puts in a genuine effort to connect with you better

The primary difference between the 1st and the 2nd type is the latter's empathy towards his team members.

Half-baked organizational policies and poorly executed processes implemented by management focussed primarily on profitability can be severely detrimental factors for employee happiness. And this could ultimately have a direct impact on the productivity and profitability that they are chasing in the first place.

But while larger-scale policy frameworks cannot be changed overnight, how a boss treats his team members can make a significant difference to the employee's perception of his workplace despite crappy policies.

While the pressures and deadlines would still be there, an empathetic boss makes it all that much bearable and often can inspire his employees to rise above and beyond their usual responsibilities.

The need of the hour for most giant corporates is to stop burdening their employees with unrealistic deadlines and instead infuse a good measure of compassion and sensitivity in the work environment.

One key way organizations could achieve that is by actively promoting greater interpersonal skills and a high degree of emotional intelligence among their leadership team.

Reward empathy.

Bring humanity back into the workplace.

It will help increase employee morale and foster a positive work environment.

It is needless to say that happy and motivated employees can lead to better client outcome, higher productivity and consequently improved brand image of the organization in the market.