Can You Be An Empathetic Manager and Still Enforce Company Policies?

Updated: Jul 20

COVID-19 has changed the way a lot of organizations, schools, and companies do business. Employee empathy ratings of their companies and CEOs rebounded in 2021 according to a study by Businessolver. Yet, 70% of CEOs say it is hard to show empathy, up 29 points from last year. One fear is that empathy may cause employees to become lax or complacent. Yet it’s entirely possible to manage employees in a way that still has the company’s policies and goals in mind. Dr. Bryan Robinson defines empathy this way, “empathy isn’t endorsing poor job performance or even agreeing with the person in question. It’s simply suspending temporarily your point of view and walking in that person’s shoes for a brief time. It takes you out of gridlock from your own perspective and lets you see a situation from a colleague’s vantage point without agreement. And it helps you respond to job issues with less judgment and animosity and more maturity, objectivity, fairness and equability.”

Empathy can make your employees feel less like robots and more like people. Even if you don’t agree with their behavior or actions, it can help you make decisions on how to handle tough situations more objectively. In turn this will result in higher employee satisfaction, less employee turnover, and greater productivity! So, how do you achieve this balance between having empathy and strictly adhering to company policies? There’s several things you need to do: 1. Be authentic to yourself and your employees. Showing a genuine human will encourage your employees to do the same. They also are more likely to come to you when there’s a problem before it spirals out of control.


2. Choose kindness. Kindness is often mistaken for weakness but kind, genuine intentions are about creating a caring community that supports growth. Kindness doesn’t mean we don’t correct or rebuke - it means the reason why we correct is for growth of the individual versus pointing out mistakes. We all know that no one is perfect, but if we are kind to employees they’re more likely to learn from mistakes and grow.


3. Be clear in your communication about expectations. With things like time management, project management, and self-management, you need to have clear (ideally written) expectations for those in your employment. No one can operate in a vacuum. Your employees need to know what is expected of them and how you view their performance so far. If you don’t make clear expectations then no one can fill them.


The world needs more empathetic workplaces that help employees thrive and grow with the company to produce the best results. With TRUE-SPEAK you can learn how to be authentic, genuine, empathetic and still maintain a professional candor with your employees. McGrath SUCCEED with TRUE-SPEAK will help you to understand who you are as a leader and how to communicate your genuine talents, abilities, and ethics in ways that mirror your core beliefs, while helping you to implement objective accountability.

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