Employee motivation through empathy in leadership: Listening is not a feeling of shyness


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Only people who are understood empathically and to whom you develop an attitude can be motivated. This does not mean emotionalism. Empathy in its four forms is an anchor that prevents employee turnover and generates added value.

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Dr. Anke Nienkerke-Springer Best of HR – Berufebilder.de®

Dr. Anke Nienkerke-Springer is managing director and owner of Nienkerke-Springer Consulting.

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Employee Binding: A Safe Attitude

A leader in today's world needs to have a firm, confident attitude and hold in order not only to tie employees to the company, but to find the right ones in the first place and then to inspire them permanently. This requires a confrontation with the personal fire.

"Better a square something than a round nothing" is the motto. A firm attitude becomes proportionately more important the more uncertain the world threatens to become around us. Terms that play a central role in this are: interest, ambition, curiosity, courage, responsibility, but above all empathy.

Leadership: Fourfold E-factor

Managers who lack empathy can not empathize with their counterparts, do not understand their problems and therefore can not find an individual solution. Often do not want it at all. Anyone who wants to build an attitude to other people can not ignore their genuine interest in people. It is therefore essential that managers are guided by the quadruple e-factor:

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  • Cognitive empathy: the ability to understand and understand the views of others.
  • Emotional empathy: the ability to empathize with other people.
  • Empathic affection: the ability to feel what other people just need.
  • Empathic decision-making: the ability to navigate between empathic understanding and hard confrontation.

Executives: Listening is what counts!

People who are only interested in ZDF - figures, data, facts - should not take on management tasks. Not least so as not to exhaust yourself in this task. Managers who lack the E factor are easy to identify and often have little success in their management career. It usually starts with the fact that they cannot listen. People who are genuinely interested in their fellow human beings not only hear what the other is saying to them, but they are able to at least approximately recognize what the other is feeling. Empathetic people can also see through the other's “glasses”, not just through their own.

They can and want to take on the world through different perception glasses. It is not about emotional compassion, but the empathetic understanding or understanding empathy with the other human's imagination. We are always on reception, but often not for our counterpart. Those who only listen with half an ear because their professional status demands it loses - in the end also the employee. Change and change in the company is characterized by emotional dynamics and not exclusively by numbers, data and facts to understand.

Employee motivation: Not everyone drives the same

An example where empathic skills are particularly prominent is the apparent motivators within a company. Where each employee is equally rewarded with bonuses or company cars solely for good performance, sooner or later, most will experience great dissatisfaction. Because not everyone is motivated by the same things. It may be more important for a single mother to have the flexibility to build up and break down overtime, or work in the home office as needed.

The trainee may want to be more attentive to his ideas, to be respected, and to take on more responsibility than a bonus of one half or more of the tax code. Of course, there are people in every business for whom money and appreciation are big drivers. The only way to find out where the individual motivators are and how to act accordingly is empathic empathy.

How Leaders Motivate Employees: Empathy is an attitude

In order to develop a firm attitude, empathy is not only necessary, but quite the opposite: empathy itself is an attitude. An attitude based on the acceptance and acceptance of the basic individuality of a person. At times by Sense- and value discussions are shaped, this perspective is essential to successfully lead companies and employees into the future. Because added value is only created through appreciation.

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Not for nothing it says: "people apply to companies, but leave bosses." So if you continue to consider empathy as a feeling of shyness and as an unreflected understanding at any time for everything and everyone leaves great potential simply on the road. And nobody can afford that anymore in the VUCA world.


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  1. Holger Prieske

    That sounds very depressing. People without empathy are best advised to commit suicide ... they are useless and they cannot learn that either.

    • Simone Janson

      Thank you for your comment!

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