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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Empathy in Management

I’m definitely not one of those managers who claim they don’t need empathy to manage people well. I always try to feel problems anybody in my team faces. Of course I’m not successful in every case, but at least I try.

I won’t change in that area, that’s for sure. I won’t change because that’s the only way I can imagine acting me as the manager.

Nevertheless, I see another kind of managers everyday. Those, who crossed out the word “empathy” from their dictionaries many years ago. Some of them are quite effective, so empathy isn’t required to achieve a success.

I like to think that their teams wouldn’t go into the fire after their leaders. I like to think that they would if they had empathetic leaders. Though I’m far from certainty in those opinions.

How do you think?

in: team management

6 comments… add one

  • Headworx February 20, 2007, 12:49 am

    What a question! I think we could start a new blog to be able to fully discuss this matter. But long story short, it all depends how you measure “success”. Is it just money on the account or something more, like having a highly motivated team or being considered to run a business with a human face? In the end it is humans you manage, not machines. Empathy is a part of human behavior. So much from the “old and wise” perspective :P

  • Pawel Brodzinski February 20, 2007, 2:07 am

    I think form me success is mainly effectiveness, however I wouldn’t feel well if I’d achieved it being an insensitive monster.

    You tend to be on the empathy side, like me. Although I believe it’s the right side I see that we are the minority. Maybe the other way is effective and requires less effort?

    I’d still like to see the difference between teams leaded by empathetic leaders and insensitive ones. I’m not sure if there’s any major difference.

  • Andrew Sacamano February 23, 2007, 8:54 am

    From what I’ve seen, short term success can be achieved without empathy. And if you are willing to change cities often enough you will generally be able to ignore the people who’s fingers you stepped on while you climbed up the ladder.

    But if you are interested in keeping your bridges unburned, eventually you will have to rely on people you have abused in the past, and may be in for some unpleasant surprises.

  • Pawel Brodzinski February 24, 2007, 3:42 am

    I think you miss one thing Andrew – that’s not the team who hire a manager, but rather some high-level management. It’s quite usual that the high-level managers don’t look at candidate’s relation with his former teams but on his list of short-term successes.

    You don’t have to change cities. “Simple people” can even have poor opinion about you. As long as you’re considered successful by hiring managers you won’t have problems with finding another job.

    Of course there are organizations which look very carefully on their managers’ relations with teams, but my experience is that’s not very usual.

  • Andrew Sacamano February 26, 2007, 4:14 pm

    Pawel,

    Perhaps I oversimplified, and I may be used to smaller cities. But I still maintain that while you might be able to get the last big job because you look good on paper, someone on your team with a grudge against you can usually find a way to quietly cause that project to tank.

  • Pawel Brodzinski February 26, 2007, 5:27 pm

    Andrew,

    I think we believe in the same values. I agree that one who ignores his team should get his “reward” in close future. I agree that those kind of attitude should influence negatively opinion about him as a manager. I agree that he should have limited options as an employee.

    Unfortunately I see this kind of managers being appreciated by their bosses. And believe me, I see lots of them. Something works here quite different than it should.

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