Why Tea and Sympathy Works
By Helene Cavalli on May 5, 2014
Empathy has not typically been considered a top leadership skill. So a recent survey of US employees showing that many managers struggle to connect with their immediate reports is unlikely to set alarm bells ringing. That managers were described as “rarely understanding” by 30% of respondents, “not at all understanding” by 22% and “overly intrusive” by an additional 6% is clearly unfortunate. Leadership, however, isn’t a sensitivity exercise or a popularity contest. When your goal is to get things done and drive results, who has time for tea and sympathy?
But here’s the rub. Can managers really be sure that they are getting the most from their team and driving the best results when nearly 60% of employees confess to feeling misunderstood most of the time? Alienated employees are disengaged employees and disengaged employees have a proven impact on the bottom line. At least one respected study has shown that the profits of organizations with mostly disengaged employees are 1% to 4% lower than those of organizations with mostly engaged employees. Results such as these are explained and reinforced by an APA survey showing that employees who feel valued are more likely to report that they are motivated to work hard and recommend their employer to others.
In a workplace that’s more diverse than ever, taking the time to understand and connect with individual employees may be one of your most effective means of driving efficiency and results. Self-aware, open-minded and emotionally intelligent leadership may offer organizations more than a top-down, hard-driving approach does.
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