Necessity of Empathy for Managers: Arguments For and Against

  • Words 1480
  • Pages 3
Download PDF

During the twentieth century, the evolution of ideas about managers and managerial work has changed, I will be explaining why I agree with McGrath’s statement in this essay. I will also provide my arguments on how and why management students should be taught empathy.

In McGrath’s article, the three eras that she pinpoints are execution, expertise and empathy. There are some early theorizations of managerial work such as Taylor’s theory, Theory X & Y and Drucker’s idea involved as well. Along with empathy she also argues that it became the crucial requirement for managers today which is, stating that they are more vital than execution and expertise in the workplace. For that reason, it should be questioned that whether empathy is really necessarily for managers at all? Finally, how should empathy be taught to educate business students as well as the effect it can bring into their education?

Click to get a unique essay

Our writers can write you a new plagiarism-free essay on any topic

During the industrial revolution, Planning, Organising, Commanding, Coordinating, controlling (Fayol, 1916) were the steps in management. However, POSDCORB soon was introduced and became slightly different, this is Planning, Organising, Staffing, Directing, Coordinating, Reporting and Budgeting. (Gulick, 1937) The purpose of management in the execution era are for businesses to increase output scale in the industrial age and mainly focusing on optimisation. Referring this back to Taylor’s motivation theory where he believed that employees are only motivated by money. For workers who slack off, they will be supervised and monitored regularly to reduce the laziness in the workplace. To solve this problem, managers should break down each employee’s job into more manageable, bite-sized tasks so that everyone can be capable and focus on their own task. Taylor also suggested that workers should be paid based on the amount of work they have produced. Otherwise, this won’t be fair to those who are working hard and still get paid the same as the ones who are hardly working at all. By applying this theory into the workplace, it will turn into a win win situation. Workers are encouraged to work hard to earn more and the business’s production is as efficient as it can be so profits can expand. He recommended that training should be provided therefore all workers perform these tasks in a standard way which will enhance standardisation. With these theorisations, although it is similar, they are also divergent as he analysed the company showing how to make individuals more efficient. Whereas with Fayol’s approach, he figured out how to make management more efficient before turning to the workers. Both theories allow employees to adapt to new working environments and boost their effectiveness at work in order to earn more wages and enhance companies’ performance.

The Theory X and Y from Douglas McGregor also relates to the execution in management because it can make assumptions of human motivation. Theory X applies to the execution the most as it believes that people dislike work must be constrained and directed toward organisational goals. Many people like being treated this way to escape their duty at work so that they can do less tasks and still get paid the same as others.

Theory Y believers normally pay more attention towards their job role and work hard to achieve their goals for themselves and the business. However, it can become challenging for managers to choose what kind of theory they wanted to use in the workplace as a manager’s viewpoint and approach are often self-fulfilling. If you are expecting the workers to get away with not being efficient, they will obviously try their hardest to do that. Organisational psychologists describe this as the Golem effect and you often see this type of environment in school and in companies. When mangers expect little performance, they will receive little in return.

On the other hand, managers are looking for their employees to become creative, make good decisions and be driven towards their goals while learning from their poor decisions. As this kind of behaviour is extremely common and also known as the Pygmalion effect, meaning the greater the expectancy you have leads to greater accomplishment. For this reason, we can agree with McGrath’s saying that most theories did come from a scientific basis in the management field during the execution period.

Expertise is the following era where companies offering innovative methods and different management styles to motivate people. Peter Drucker is this era’s representative researcher as he believes that all managers should be above everyone else. He chose a more collaborative and adaptable approach, took notice to decentralisation, knowledge work, management by objectives (MBO) and a process called SMART. The purpose of MBO is making sure all levels of employees work together towards the business’s objectives, allowing everyone to have their say as well as sharing opinions. This will then create teams which can allocate individual duties easily judging by each person’s skills and pursuits. Process of MBO consist 5 steps starting from both supervisors and team members discussing and setting themselves a target for the company, followed by each member to refine the firm’s target into personal objectives. Then everyone will observe the progress of each other’s goals so that they can assess performance and finally team members seek comment and incentives towards the end of the process. This is why organisations and individuals should take extra consideration when setting a target because Drucker believed the idea of George T. Doran’s SMART goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound in order to achieve success. To apply into today’s businesses, “Look out the window and see what’s visible but not yet seen.’ (Drucker, 1977) This is one of his prominent guidance’s saying whatever the trends and technology at the moment, your business needs to be thinking how they make a big impact to the company which will still apply in years’ time.

Empathy is the final stage in the management area. It is for organisations to create complex and meaningful experiences. Empathy in Mcgregor’s theories of X and Y related to MBO & Management by Walking (MBWA) began over the twentieth century. As mentioned MBO allow employees to actively contribute in setting goals that are tangible, demonstrable, and measurable, this proves that it is perfectly matched with the characteristics of Theory X. However, with MBWA they are mainly focusing on good managers who are proactive listeners and to gather information to reduce less challenges. On the downside, according to Max Messmer, ‘another mistake managers make is to inadvertently create more work for employees. By offering suggestions that may be interpreted as assignments, managers can increase the workload and slow down progress.’ Seeing that managers often become self-fulfilling in theory Y is the reason why they are so alike.

Today empathy is more crucial than execution and expertise. Saga said, ‘managers and scholars have recognised that individual feelings are often expressions of or reactions to organizational realities.’ There are two ways that connect to emotions which explain individuals feelings at work and the idea of culture. Based on the research they conducted, it is summed up as emotions being more respected, people are feeling more alienated also concluding that attempts to quell emotion in organisations are recognised as outdated. Hence, it makes empathy a genuine goal for managers as without this you will not build a new generation of leaders especially in big firms like Apple, it is essential also in negotiations and sales because it lets you to know your target’s aspirations and identifies the risks beforehand.

In my view, it is tricky to teach a feeling, first of all it is already hard to define an emotion. Secondly, everyone reacts differently towards their own behaviours, which means there are no right or wrong answers of how we should teach empathy. Though, a BBC article from Roman Krznaric said ‘‘Almost everyone can learn to develop this crucial personality trait.’’ I believe university can give business students an assessment called Reading the Mind in the Eyes in which you are presented 36 pairs of eyes and have to select one of four words that best describes what each person is feeling or thinking. Another way to open up our empathic minds is to become curious about outsiders. Students can learn this by start having a conversation with another students in class and challenge assumptions and prejudices that we have about others judging by their appearance, accents or background. By doing this can also build up our confidence level when we are trying to interact with others. This can certainly let students prepare for the outside world once they are ready to face a similar situation at work after graduation.

In summary, empathy does make a large impact to our daily life, especially in management. Still, overly applying empathy into the workplace can damage the work atmosphere and reduce the work effectiveness of each individual as a result of causing conflicts or problems between managers and employees. Most importantly, making it harder to drive organisational goals.


We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you board with our cookie policy.