Using Compassion to Manage People Better

Many workplaces are run by managers who, having been raised by authoritarian parents and strict teachers, bring these tactics to their own leadership. Fear can be a powerful motivator – but it can also be a powerful drain on productivity, creativity, and motivation.

What’s the solution? According to Stanford psychologist Emma Seppala, it’s in promoting a culture of trust and compassion, rather than competition and fear.

Building a “compassion culture” in management doesn’t mean accepting mediocre work from staff, or letting them off the hook when they make mistakes. Instead, it means employing tactics like:

Skip the reprimand in favor of understanding.

Conventional business wisdom says that reprimanding employees for mistakes helps keep them and their co-workers on their toes. However, research indicates that reprimands do more harm than good:

  • Reprimands increase stress levels, which reduce productivity.
  • A punished employee is less likely to think creatively, for fear of making another mistake.
  • Employees who see co-workers being punished for mistakes are also less likely to think creatively or to offer innovative ideas to managers.

Instead, researchers recommend employing empathy when it’s time to discuss a mistake with an employee. Put yourself in the employee’s place and ask “If I knew I’d made this mistake, how would I be feeling right now? What could my manager say to help me fix the problem, prevent it from happening again, and understand why it’s important to get it right?” Then, proceed accordingly with your own employee.

Make a conscious commitment to compassionate communication.

Some managers balk at the idea of compassionate communication because it seems to take a great deal of time. The manager must not only consider multiple points of view, but must work out how to approach the individual employee kindly and get his or her message across clearly. Some managers protest that the pace of their work simply won’t allow for this type of time commitment.

However, researchers note, the question isn’t whether you will spend the time – the question is how. Will you spend time helping an employee understand the problem and prevent it? Or will you spend the time fixing the additional errors that stress and tension inevitably cause?

At Employment Professionals Canada, our experienced recruiters can help you find the right people – including the managers who can lead effectively and inspire staff to do their best work. Contact us today to learn more about our staffing and recruiting services in the Niagara Region.