Walking a Mile in Someone’s Shoes

Leaders have more to do than ensure productivity. They must show empathy towards employees to be truly effective

Empathy as a management trait is often overlooked, forgotten and not necessarily discussed when dealing with issues in a workplace setting. Despite this, and the fact that the benefits of empathetic management are touted academically, it doesn’t always come naturally to every leader.

Joe, a senior manager at his organization, strongly believed in the command-and-control style. For him this meant being aggressive and inflexible and doing a lot of yelling. According to CEO of Ontario-based Shift Coaching Susan Pahl, “In his mind, it’s ‘If I say this, then they should do that.’ Even Joe’s superiors, who were also a command-and-control style, were saying this [style] is not working,” says Pahl.

Pahl was engaged to coach Joe to be more empathetic. She found that in addition to being unaware of the impact he was having on others, he also scored low on measures of emotional intelligence (EQ). Despite this, she says minor changes like greeting his staff in the morning and shifting his view to work outcomes made a major difference.

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Ways to Increase Empathy

Author and organizational psychologist Dr. Craig Dowden gives direction on ways to be more empathic.

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Alice Chen
Alice Chen is a Toronto-based freelance writer.