Managers: Are You Empathetic and Nurturing?

BY Kathy Crosett
Featured image for “Managers: Are You Empathetic and Nurturing?”

Do your team members know more than you about the technical aspects of their job? No problem, because these days, managers must focus on being empathetic and nurturing. Between technological advances and the strain of the pandemic, the managerial role continues to evolve.

You may still be working in a remote location, as are your team members. And you’ve probably had quite enough of listening to barking dogs and arguing children. Some of us are also tired of the endless meal preparation that working from home entails.

Check Your Empathy Level

Your team members likely feel the same way. Don’t miss the opportunity to bond with your team members over this issue. When you ask about their childcare issues, slow down your speaking pace. John Baldoni recommends consciously trying to relax your facial muscles as you listen to your employees on a Zoom call. Keep your eyes focused on them instead of checking your phone.

While this strategy works well when you share life circumstances with team members, you need to show empathy for team members with lives that are vastly differently from yours. Some team members may be decades older or younger than you. They may practice a different religion. Or they may belong to a different race or ethnic group.

If you’ve got unconscious bias, often stemming from privilege, you can become more aware of the issues a team member is facing. On a regular basis, ask yourself, as Claire Cain Miller suggests, “When was the last time you had to think about your race, ethnicity, gender, religion, ability level or sexual orientation?” Your answer to this question might help you think about the stress your employee faces on a daily basis. 

One way to show empathy is to ask employees about their days outside of work. These kinds of interactions might not come as naturally if you and your team members are working at remote locations. Above all, don’t assume that your employees have lives just like yours. These assumptions put people off and they may be afraid to mention a personal challenge they’re facing because they don’t want you to hold it against them.

Nurturing Managers

It’s not too early to think about the post-​pandemic organizational model and the implications it has for managerial style. Today’s managers must be prepared to nurture instead of acting as authority figures. In previous generations, employees who excelled at the skills required to do a job moved into management. 

Business leaders realize that today’s workforce has changed. Their employees, often highly educated and independent-​minded individuals, won’t react well to an authoritarian manager. To properly motivate team members, the best managers will be those with “the capacity to interact with an unfamiliar person effectively, good listening skills, real-​time processing skills,” says Joseph Fuller, professor of management practice at Harvard Business School.

Empathetic and Nurturing

If you believe you’re falling short in empathetic and nurturing areas, promise to improve. And to make sure that’s happening, ask a colleague for help. They can alert you when you speak too sharply or cut people off. Keep in mind that over 38% of sales reps who voluntarily leave an organization do so because they don’t believe anyone cares about them. When you emphasize your empathetic and nurturing side, you’ll reduce staff turnover.