“The first criteria of being a leader is to practice empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Simon Sinek
I have worked with several stressed out and overwhelmed managers that try to figure out how to help their troubled or distressed employees. Instead, they seem to get out of balance as a manager.
This is never good because leadership is a requirement for healthy managers.
A healthy manager knows their limits with an emotional employee.
Here are the mistakes an overwhelmed manager makes when trying to “help” an emotional employee.
- They pity their employee.
- They can feel in their gut something is wrong but keep wishing it would go away.
- They do not openly ask their employee on specifics about their job performance.
- They listen to feedback from others at work and do not allow it to be absorbed.
- They avoid crucial conversations.
Years ago, I worked with a manager that came to me upset that they were told that they weren’t sympathetic enough to an employee’s issue. The employee’s spouse had been checked into alcohol rehab and as a result their work was falling behind. It had been 6 months and the manager had been informed by their team and by their management that the employee’s performance was failing.
What could they do? They didn’t want to be labeled a witch and yet their efforts at leadership were showing abysmal results. Do you know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you must make a decision and none of them seem right?
Here is the secret sauce about empathy vs. sympathy. Empathy is about seeing the person and you can feel or see their pain, but you are not responsible for an answer. Sympathy is feeling someone else’s pain because you can see the tragedy and you are unsure on what to do next -except feel bad for them.
I spoke with the overwhelmed manager and asked why they weren’t seen as sympathetic. It turned out everyone on the team including their management kept seeing the overwhelmed manager making grimaces when asked about the employee The manager was unaware and admitted they had an alcohol history in their family and they way it was dealt with was to ignore it.
Even though the employee wasn’t drinking but having them acknowledge an alcohol problem in their family, take time off, and openly grieve their situation caused this manager to feel stressed out and overwhelmed.
The manager as much as they tried to grant the employee time off, they ignored their feelings and how they would affect them. In turn, they appeared less sympathetic to the employee, not a healthy management result.
What makes effective management empathy?
- Offer condolences to another for their situation.
- Offer resources to the employee, PTO, FMLA, Flex-Schedule, & EAP.
- Knowing your limits so you don’t feel drained.
- Meet with their manager or HR for additional guidance.
- Look at team building ideas like a group lunch to help promote teamwork and less focus on stress.
- Meet with your support network if you are feeling overwhelmed
- Review job descriptions, performance evaluations, and work quality for objective measures before communicating to employee about their performance.
- Ask the employee what they need?
- Ask yourself what do you need from the employee?
The good news once the manager was able to feel “sorted out.” The complaints stopped, the employee was given a performance improvement plan because the employee requested it (accountability honestly felt like caring from the manager), and there was less stress on the team.
I coach women daily on how to cultivate their enthusiasm and desire so they can find their strengths, use their talents and gifts at work and in life.
If you would like a free 30-minute consultation please feel free to connect with me at http://jeanniedougherty.com/contact/.