How Do I Keep My Employees Motivated?
Amid the major theories of motivation in employee management, author George Langelett proposes his theory of empathy-based management that offers what dominant theories of today lack – a process by which managers actively foster a supportive personal relationship with their employees through empathetic interaction on a daily basis and create an emotionally safe and connected work environment. This results in employees that are dedicated, loyal, competent, and better equipped to apply more creative problem solving within and for the organization. The book explains what empathy is, the behavior of the brain and how empathetic relationships impact an employee’s decision-making and motivation, techniques for creating shared connectedness when an employee is experiencing a crises, tools to use in empathizing with employees, and laying out what these techniques and tools might look like in practice. Following the chapters, the author has included several appendices that cover distinctions between different management theories and empathy-based management, additional insights into the differences between various management styles, and three basic worksheets for the manager’s quick reference and notes during employee interactions. At the end of the book is an extensive section for recommendations for further reading.
The theory of empathy-based management is easily understandable and reasonable especially given the principles of how the brain works. It offers a worthwhile model for better interpersonal relationships in the business environment and better relationships in turn lead to more benefits for the organization. In fact, these principles could apply to any human personal interaction, not just in the business environment. I thought often of my own family while reading, so it was no surprise to discover that some of the underlying techniques and principles were adapted from Love and Logic, a parenting approach I was already familiar with. The information on the brain is simple but clear. The text provides a different perspective in combining concepts of neuroscience, psychology, and psychotherapy to the business environment.
Because the premise and concepts were sufficiently comprehensible, I feel that the chapters could have been more concise, as it seemed the explanations were repetitive throughout the chapters and caused one to lose track of the steps because of the lengthy narrative. A diagram or simple outline of steps similar to the worksheets in the appendices would have been helpful. While I found the theory sound, I had trouble envisioning some of the scenarios happening in a realistic business situation because the dialog or situation between employees and manager seemed too juvenile or patronizing. For example, one scenario had an employee complaining to the manager that a co-worker kept giving her “dirty looks”. In another example, an employee complained that it was “unfair” that a co-worker was promoted over him. Note the pronouns are arbitrary in this review as the examples specifically stated that the names given in the sample dialog were gender-neutral. While these situations may arise in real life, in my experience, employees do not openly complain to managers of such issues and usually keep such thoughts to themselves. One empathetic response that the book suggested managers say to employees to empathize was “That is so sad.” I feel in a corporate environment the comment would come off as patronizing and it is the exact statement recommended in the Love and Logic approach from parent to child.
Another suggestion I found less viable in the book was that managers check on how each employee was doing each day and assess their emotional state taking notes on what they discover. While the book suggests that it not necessarily require a lot of time after a manager gets to know his employees better and crises are not present, I find the strong suggestion that managers complete this on a daily basis impractical in a large organization or group. Perhaps in practice it might be simpler than what it appears when read in the text, but all of the activities in total recommended for managers to follow make it appear as if the manager’s sole responsibility is managing the employees without the added responsibility of running business operations. The text implies that if the manager establishes an empathetic relationship with employees, the employees will take care of the rest independently. The book also suggests that by setting clear written company policies, then employee discipline will be a simple matter of enabling the employee to face the consequences resulting from broken policies in an empathetic manner. Most real life situations, however, are not as black and white as written in an employee handbook. For instance in the appendices, the book warns against the ramifications of an ego-based or narcissistic manager, but not how to address these traits in an employee. This is not to say that, to some degree, the given scenarios are not possible, but I find the examples too simplistic to be as meaningful. I would find it a stronger argument for empathy-based management if there were a case study of empathy-based management in an actual corporation and the corresponding results on direct aspects of the business.
Overall, I think this book has merit and it is a worthwhile contribution to the field of employee management as it reminds us that all situations benefit from better interpersonal relationships and connectedness, the business environment being no different and that such considerations have perhaps been lost in our post-industrialized culture of big business and myopic pursuit of profits. I believe the principles of empathy-based management a worthwhile investment for today’s managers and the book can provide a useful starting point for managers looking for a more systematic guide to forging better manager-employee relationships. I would recommend managers take to heart the potential empathy-based management could have in the work environment and look beyond the book’s simplistic examples and apply their own creativity and experience in practice.
River Grove Books