Is practising empathy good for decision making at work?
Empathy is the ability to perceive and share another person’s feelings and thoughts. It is an important leadership quality in order to effectively manage and lead people in any area of a business. People can only be motivated if you understand their feelings.
Types of empathy
Empathy can be divided in two: emotional and cognitive. When you understand and feel the emotion of another person, you experience emotional empathy, whereas, when you can understand the other person’s emotions but not feel it yourself, you experience cognitive empathy. In simple words, you experience cognitive empathy when you feel for the other person, but you experience emotional empathy when you feel with the other person.
How it affects leaders/managers and their decisions?
Although emotional empathy can be useful in getting to know your employees better, when it comes to making decisions, it may not be the best guide.
Too much emotional empathy in the workplace can lead to:
Feelings of exhaustion in leaders/managers due to mental fatigue.
The impulse to put others’ needs before one’s own is caused due to excessive empathy and can lead to mental fatigue and anxiety in leaders. It also depletes a leader’s cognitive resources, resulting in a negative impact on their work.
Leaders getting emotionally drained
Empathy can make leaders feel emotionally drained as they go about facing challenges. What's more is that along with energy and emotions, empathy also drains itself.
Managers making decisions which only benefit the people they empathise
Being empathetic towards one person or a group may result in showing none or less to the other. This leads to making biased decisions benefitting only a group of people.
On the other hand, cognitive empathy allows leaders to promote a healthy work-life balance by providing a positive environment for their staff. At the same time, the leader can use their executive abilities to the fullest. Leaders with higher degrees of cognitive empathy report better levels of happiness, personal growth, and job satisfaction.
Empathy is useless unless it is accompanied by the ability and discipline to pull away, assess critically, and respond appropriately. The answer to leading employees effectively is to be aware of their feelings, show compassion and take the action necessary.