In This Issue
The Road Warrior
The Task That Makes Empathetic Leaders Less Effective
Bad news bearers
Numerous studies have concluded that empathetic people generally make better leaders. However, new research published in the February 2022 issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology found that high-empathy leaders may struggle with an essential element of their jobs—delivering negative feedback to staff members.
According to a study of 500 leaders by University of Arkansas management researchers, high-empathy leaders reported feeling more distressed and inattentive and less effective at their jobs after imparting negative employee feedback. Researchers found that the stronger an employee reacted to the news, the worse high-empathy leaders performed at tasks designed to measure critical leadership skills. Similar studies have discovered that high-empathy leaders exhibit lower levels of executive functioning, planning, and problem-solving after providing negative feedback.
Low-empathy leaders included in the University of Arkansas study reported the exact opposite reaction after giving negative feedback. They became more attentive and less distressed. “For less empathetic leaders, giving negative feedback can actually be an energizing experience, rather than a depleting one” the researchers wrote for the Harvard Business Review website in January 2022. The takeaway, of course, is not to fill your leadership team with low-empathy people but instead to train them to communicate with more compassion since they are less apt to deliver negative feedback in a constructive manner.
“An important implication of our study is that organizations might want to take steps to counteract the attentional and emotional demands associated with providing negative feedback, particularly for leaders higher in empathy,” the researchers concluded. They suggested that high-empathy leaders be encouraged to deliver difficult messages at the end of the workday or to schedule recovery time or tasks that require less energy when providing negative feedback is required. In addition, try to shift the mindset of high-empathy leaders from a focus on how feedback might elicit a negative reaction in the short term to how the message will result in positive change for the employee in the long run.
the Road Warrior
Cybersecurity Risks Rising for Business Travelers
Not too savvy
Proceed with caution
Feel the burn
A guide to help you better understand how AE firms are valued and – perhaps more importantly – what you can do to build value now.Read Newsletter