Empathy is having feelings or concern for another person that creates a desire to help them, which may be feelings of sadness or happiness. It is also the ability to be sensitive of other people’s feelings. In the workplace, empathy can be applied by listening to others’ viewpoints and trying to assimilate their thought. Thus, managers who exercise empathy are deemed to improve the job performance of workers. In this regard, this paper focuses on empathy in the work place, and its influence on job performance.
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For a manager to have empathy, he/she has to be able to interact freely with the employees, and spend time with them at their work places. He/she is supposed to understand that he/she influences people’s actions and sometimes makes people achieve their careers and goals through his/her actions and advice.
Managers should not only focus in achieving their goals, but should also ensure that other people’s goals are accomplished because some forget the difficulties that they faced while they were at a low grade. When people start to think that their leader is not empathetic to them they tend to move away.
Hoffman conforms that empathy is essential for brand managers because they get to know their customers’ experience in every process in the value chain and also engage in deeper, more personal consumer understanding for better brand growth. Knowing what drives a customer behavior requires one to know what they feel about products.
Similarly, spending time with employees especially when they are in their actual self is important because the manager understands them better. He/she observes how they behave naturally and understands them in detail.
These relations help the manager to know the real environment and how it feels to work in it, especially when he/she shows interest in employees. A manager might have all the good attributes, but without empathy they are of no use. Gentry, Weber, and Sadri assert that empathy increases the level of job performance in the long run. 
When leading team meetings, manager shows empathy, particularly when he/she seeks contribution from other members, and this helps him to access responses from the whole group. During period of rapid changeover, it is important for the manager to understand issues that employees try to deal with. They may respond by calling weekly staff meeting and putting notices to eliminate any negative fears that employees might have.
De Waal argues that in reviewing performance, an empathetic manager has to understand what the employee is feeling, especially if it is a case of low performance because with this understanding, he/she is able to evaluate performance in a way that brings positive feedback that the manager aspires. When considering special requests, the managers are able to know the extent to which that request ought to be treated as special without favoritism.
There are some application skills of empathy, especially when framing a message. For instance, when a manager is communicating to an employee, he/she is supposed to feel how the message will get to the employee. This depends on whether it is an argument, congratulations message, apology, or even when communicating something painful.
Timing is also essential because it determines when to act and when to remain silence. When a manager is leading, encouraging, inspiring, or discouraging – the way of communicating matters because the manager must reflect on how the other person feels.
Empathy helps to detect overworking of some employees before damage is made because communicating with the employees makes it easier for the managers to know what their employees are going through. In addition, empathy is important when settling conflicts among the employees because identifying their personal experience directs a manager to arrive into a solution.
A manager shows empathy in his/her employees while developing his/her empathetic skills by doing volunteer work to help others. This makes the manager to interact with his employees. Likewise, a manager who attends workshops and managerial courses improves his/ her skills. A manager knows his/her employees better by getting involved in groups’ activities; with this, he/she performs touch exercises to improve his sensory opinion about others.
However, the main cause of managers not showing empathy is pride: they fear that the employees will underrate them and think that they are doing it for personal gain. Authoritarianism is another cause where the managers believe that they are the experts and they are the only ones who are right or know the truth.
Some show sympathy with acknowledging everything while they feel nothing for the people affected. They are self obsessed and have no time for others and hence, they believe that they are great thinkers and intellectuals who are always right. Materialism is another cause of not showing empathy, where managers gain at the expense of others. Materialism may be destructive to the organization because it reduces productivity.
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In conclusion, practicing empathy should be a habit to those who habitually see things only from their own viewpoint, especially when they think about how a certain situation affects them. This is because empathy is an attribute driven by getting used to thinking beyond oneself and considering other peoples feelings or caring about other peoples needs.
An empathetic manager working in teams or individual groups is understood by others because for a manager to be understood or understand other people’s feeling, he/she has to communicate and exercise good listening skills. This makes the employees to know that what they are talking about is being heard and important. Therefore, effective bosses must practice empathy in their organizations to bring out an effective and productive team.
De Waal, F, The Age of Empathy. Harmony Press, New York, 2006.
Gentry, WA, TJ Weber & G Sadri, Empathy in the Workplace: A Tool for Effective Leadership, Center for Creative Leadership, retrieved <https://www.ccl.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/EmpathyInTheWorkplace.pdf>
Hoffman, ML, Empathy and Moral Development. Cambridge University Press, New York, 2000.
- ML Hoffman, Empathy and Moral Development. Cambridge University Press, New York, 2000, p. 15
- WA Gentry, TJ Weber & G Sadri, Empathy in the Workplace: A Tool for Effective Leadership, Center for Creative Leadership.
- F De Waal, The Age of Empathy. Harmony Press, New York, 2006, p. 24.
- Gentry, Weber & Sadri, p. 8.
- Hoffman, pp. 23-30.