1 WHITE PAPER. Empathy in the Workplace A Tool for Effective Leadership*. By: William A. Gentry, Todd J. Weber, and Golnaz Sadri *This white paper is based on a poster that was presented at the Society of Industrial Organizational Psychology Conference, New York, New York, April 2007. Contents Introduction 1. Empathy and Performance: What's the Connection? 2. The Research 3. The Findings 4. Empathy Can Be Learned 6. Conclusion 9. References 10. About the Authors 11. Introduction A top priority for many organizations is With such high stakes, talent management to look beyond traditional strategies for and human resource professionals as well management development and recruitment as senior executives are pursuing multiple to create a cadre of leaders capable of strategies for developing more Effective moving the company forward.
2 Managers and leaders. And no wonder. Ineffective managers Managers, too, may be surprised that so are expensive, costing organizations many of their peers are underperforming. millions of dollars each year in direct and It's a smart move for individual managers, indirect costs. Surprisingly, ineffective then, to figure out how they rank and what managers make up half of the today's skills are needed to improve their chances organizational management pool, of success. according to a series of studies (see Gentry, 2010; Gentry & Chappelow, 2009). One of those skills, perhaps unexpectedly, is Empathy . 2016 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved. 1. Empathy and Performance: What's the Connection?
3 Empathy is the ability to experience and relate Empathy is one factor in relationships. For to the thoughts, emotions, or experience of several years, research and work with leaders others. Empathy is more than simple sympathy, by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL ). which is being able to understand and support has shown that the nature of leadership others with compassion or sensitivity. is shifting, placing a greater emphasis on building and maintaining relationships. Empathy is a construct that is fundamental Leaders today need to be more person- to leadership. Many leadership theories focused and be able to work with those suggest the ability to have and display not just in the next cubicle, but also with Empathy is an important part of leadership.
4 Those in other buildings, or other countries. Transformational leaders need Empathy in For instance, past CCL research such as the order to show their followers that they care Changing Nature of Leadership or Leadership for their needs and achievement (Bass, 1985). Gap or Leadership Across Difference show that Authentic leaders also need to have Empathy leaders now need to lead people, collaborate in order to be aware of others (Walumbwa, with others, be able to cross organizational Avolio, Gardner, Wernsing, & Peterson, 2008). and cultural boundaries and need to create Empathy is also a key part of emotional shared direction, alignment, and commitment intelligence that several researchers believe is between social groups with very different critical to being an Effective leader (Bar-On & histories, perspectives, values, and cultures.)
5 It Parker, 2000; George, 2000; Goleman, 1995; stands to reason that Empathy would go a long Salovey & Mayer, 1990). way toward meeting these people-oriented managerial and leadership requirements. To understand if Empathy has an influence on a manager's job performance, CCL analyzed data from 6,731 managers from 38 countries. Key findings of the study are: Empathy is positively related to job performance. Empathy is more important to job performance in some cultures than others. 2 2016 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved. The Research To better understand how leaders can be Effective in their jobs, CCL conducted a study to address two key issues: 1.
6 Successful Job Performance: Is Empathy needed to be successful in a leader's job? 2. Cross-Cultural Issues: Does Empathy influence success more in some cultures than others? To answer these questions, we analyzed leaders' Questions were measured on a 5-point scale with Empathy based on their behavior. Having Empathy 1 = not at all to 5 = to a very great extent. is not the same thing as demonstrating Empathy . Conveying empathic emotion is defined as the Each manager in the sample also had one boss rate ability to understand what others are feeling (Duan, them on three items that measured job performance: 2000; Duan & Hill, 1996; Goleman, 2006), the ability to actively share emotions with others, and How would you rate this person's performance in passively experiencing the feelings of others (Kellett, his/her present job (1 = among the worst to Humphrey, & Sleeth, 2006) in order to be Effective .)
7 5 = among the best);. Where would you place this person as a leader We searched CCL's database and identified a sample compared to other leaders inside and outside your of 6,731 leaders from 38 countries. (See Table 1 on organization (1 = among the worst to 5 = among the page 11 for the number of managers from each best); and country and Table 2 on page 12 for demographic What is the likelihood that this person will derail information.) These leaders had at least three ( , plateau, be demoted, or fired) in the next five subordinates rate them on the display of empathic years as a result of his/her actions or behaviors as a emotion as measured by CCL's Benchmarks.
8 Manager? (1 = not at all likely to 5 = almost certain). 360-degree instrument. Subordinates rated managers on four items: Is sensitive to signs of overwork in others. Shows interest in the needs, hopes, and dreams of other people. Is willing to help an employee with personal problems. Conveys compassion toward them when other people disclose a personal loss. 2016 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved. 3. The Findings Our results reveal that Empathy is positively related and agree that power should be stratified and to job performance. Managers who show more concentrated at higher levels of an organization Empathy toward direct reports are viewed as better or government (House & Javidan, 2004, p.)
9 12). performers in their job by their bosses. Cultures with high power distance believe that power should be concentrated at higher levels. The findings were consistent across the sample: Such cultures believe that power provides harmony, empathic emotion as rated from the leader's social order, and role stability. China, Egypt, Hong subordinates positively predicts job performance Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Poland, Singapore, ratings from the leader's boss. and Taiwan are all considered high power-distance While Empathy is clearly important to the full sample countries (see Table 1 on page 11). and across all the countries in the study, the research In high power-distance cultures, paternalism shows that the relationship between Empathy and characterizes leader-subordinate relationships, performance is stronger in some cultures more than where a leader will assume the role of a parent and others.
10 Feel obligated to provide support and protection We found that the positive relationship between to subordinates under his or her care (Yan &. empathic emotion and performance is greater for Hunt, 2005). The results of our study suggest that managers living in high power-distance countries, empathic emotion plays an important role in making Empathy even more critical to performance creating this paternalistic climate of support and for managers operating in those cultures. protection to promote successful job performance in these high power-distance cultures. Power distance is defined as the degree to which members of an organization or society expect 4 2016 Center for Creative Leadership.