Bridging the Emotional Divide

As we look at the number of underemployed Gen Yers in our nation, it’s easy to understand how they might be discouraged about their future employment.  How do today’s leaders inspire the next generation of employees? I don’t think it will be solved with the status quo.

In fact, employees are looking to follow a special type of leader in the future. In the 21st century, leaders who have the capacity for caring become an inspirational magnet to employees. Most managers don’t care about the personal welfare of their workers.

Furthermore, many managers do not understand how to care and love their employees. I’m not talking about sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct.  I’m talking about a leader with a genuine concern about the growth and well being of his or her employees.  Therefore, this relationship goes beyond this manager’s own self interest.  Contemporary organizations simply do not have sincere affection for their employees.

Unfortunately, some managers view their employees like any other business commodity (like a computer, fax, or cell phone). Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of the Human Equation, notes that today’s conventional wisdom holds that the way to economic success is to cut costs. This simply means cutting people. A company may be concerned on a very superficial level as in “how are you doing today,” but don’t feel a sense of caring for its employees.

If organizations hope to sustain any success in the future with the next generation of employees, managers will need to make a giant paradigm shift. Dr. Bruce Winston, my former dean and a leadership guru, advocates the need for more caring leaders.

Leadership is about giving, not taking. It’s more than just being the boss. John Hoyle, author of Leadership and Futuring, suggests three characteristics of this new leadership model. These characteristics include the following: (a) ability to communicate with followers, especially the organizational vision; (b) a capacity for caring and concern; and (c) a persistent attitude. Many leaders operate under a very authoritarian mode.

Sadly, the lack of concern for people is a growing issue for effective organizations. It also creates an unproductive work environment for employee development. What America needs is more people-focused leaders. If leaders are truly concerned about their employees, then the workforce will be transformed into a 21st century organization, thereby changing the world. However, it must start with a different leadership model.

Describe your professional and personal experiences with this new leadership model (concerned & involved leadership).


17 thoughts on “Bridging the Emotional Divide

  1. When employees feel respected, they thrive. This was demonstrated by the Hawthorn Effect. “Individual behaviors may be altered by the study itself, rather than the effects the study is researching, was demonstrated in a research project (1927 – 1932) of the Hawthorne plant of the Western Electric Company in Cicero, Illinois.” ( I have been in management, the lowest ranked employee, and a volunteer. While directing others, I could do nothing unless they were willing to perform. It was my pleasure to serve them so that the mission of our organization could be accomplished. I loved making their jobs easier and helping them to flourish. I wanted them to know how important they were to the company and we celebrated their contributions. In return my employees were creative, loyal, productive, generous, and caring. On the other hand, I have worked in conditions where the leadership would not even say good morning to me. Unfortunately, I did not respect them as I would like to have, and I spent too much time worrying about why I wasn’t good enough to be acknowledged. When volunteering, I am motivated only my love of the Lord. I am there because I choose to be.

    The Hawthorne Effect

    • Having been a very low ranking employee myself, I also understand the importance of making employees feel like they’re appreciated. It helps employees want to work harder for the company I they are respected by those that are above them. When leaders didn’t seem to acknowledge me, I didn’t often want to do the best work I could. I spent much time worrying about how I might get yelled if I possibly did something wrong. This made me second guess everything that I did when I would be trying to get the job done and would make me take extra time to get things done.

    • I agree with Heidi; I believe she brings up many good points. I have personally witnessed leaders who genuinely care for their employees and they are the only type of leader that I would want to work for. When leaders make an effort to go above and beyond the simple working relationship and get personal, it almost never goes unnoticed by employees. Employees often respond by performing better and wanting to succeed not only for them but for the leader as well. I had a professor who used to be a mid level manager in the corporate world. Through personal stories and experiences told in class it was obvious that he was a very personal manager. He would send cards to his employees on holidays and birthdays, stick his neck out for them on occasion, and really got to know them on a personal level. He said his employees would often perform better due to this. He would also joke that he had employees that would take a bullet for him. Obviously he had created real life relationships with these people, and he truly cared about them as a person. As a result I would bet that his employees performed very well for him.

    • Hi Heidi,

      Excellent! The Hawthorne Effect provides us good insight on the human capital factor, using the Behavioral School of Management. People can be inspired for higher performance with concerned managers.

      People matter!!!

  2. I have worked in both types of working environments where your superiors care about you on a personal level and where they only see you as another person to belittle when things go wrong. In the situation where it was common to feel belittled, I stayed stressed constantly. I was afraid of doing everything wrong. If my name was called out by the boss, then I knew what was coming. I did not have the desire to go into work. I would be very depressed some days and did not want to go into work because I knew what I would have to deal with when I go there. I was even told things to do by the boss, and then I was told that I should not have done them by the same boss. I was never told that I was doing a good job or appreciated for my hard work. It is hard to work in that type of authoritarian and micro-managed work environment.

    While working in an authoritarian type environment was always very hectic and stressful, my experience with positions where the boss cares is creates quite the opposite effect. In the positive environment, I knew my boss cared for each of the employees. I knew I could go talk to the person about anything I needed to. I knew my work was recognized, worked harder and more efficiently, and had to deal with a very little stress. I did not have to worry about looking over my shoulder at all times. The workplace had a great and more efficient atmosphere with a lot of positive reinforcement to help empower the employees. Thus, it can make a difference to have a person who cares as a leader. It is definitely the way businesses are moving and current businesses with authoritarian management styles should consider. Richard L. Daft (2011) states, “In one study, two-thirds of the difference between average and top performing leaders was found to be due to emotional competence, with only one-third due to technical skills” (p. 135). The emotional and physical return on investment created by an emotionally and socially aware leader would be too good to pass up for organizations around the world.

    Daft, R.L. (2011). Leadership. Mason, Ohio: South-Western, Cengage Learning.

  3. The common denominator in leadership throughout my experience as a leader, decision maker, and subordinate is there needs to be common ground expectations and communication. Most discordance from employees is from a perception of expectations that differs from the leaders; this is from lack of communication from both parties. Many leaders however do not have appropriate training to exercise different management styles other than the styles that they themselves emulated via vertical transmission from a previous manager. Many styles whether authoritarian, participative, or directive have unique strengths and weaknesses and many managers will not deviate from their comfort zone to gain experience in the other modalities. This reduces the effectiveness of the leader’s ability to motivate and control tasks required to meet objectives. Appropriately echoed by Lloyd “[leadership] is a continuum that requires art as well as science, so the best leaders will have a little of every style. It’s knowing when to apply each one that makes the difference”. When managers make or fail to make expected and competent decisions from inexperience, dissension and anger can be a normal emotion expressed from employees and vice-versa lending to a perception change. With established and open communication, everyone knows the intended purpose, direction, and path to accomplish the corporate goal while giving managers the latitude to express different styles of leadership.

    Lloyd, J. (2007). Micro, Hands-Off, Authoritative–Leadership Styles Vary. Receivables Report for America’s Health Care Financial Managers, 22(9), 8-10. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

    • Vertical transmission is an affect we see frequently in the work environment. Often, smart, hardworking yet inexperienced managers are ill-equipped to handle the position. Their emotional immaturity can darken the culture of the work environment. Their subordinates pick up on this behavior and mirror it, not knowing any better model to emulate.

    • Phil put very eloquently that communication and common ground expectations are pivotal in leadership and I certainly agree. Leadership is measured not only by the ability of managers to accomplish a task, but also the level of performance they can achieve from their employees. The use of teamwork and communication have been reinforced for many years through differing means of programs and seminars, but how can they be applied in a manner that is most effective? The ultimate additional factor necessary is respect. Betsy Bernard outlines a series of dos and don’ts in her article “Golden Rules of Leadership.” Her number one rule places emphasis on the fact that everyone’s time is valuable. If mangers can think of their employees as equals and grant them respect and autonomy in their trade or skill, a level of trust and respect can be nurtured. Obviously decisions and commands must be made when appropriate, but giving employees that respect can certainly bolster moral and support in these leadership decisions.

      Bernard, B. (2003). Golden Rules of Leadership. Executive Excellence, 20(1), 16. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

  4. Being an effective and caring leader is not an easy chore. Leaders need not only worry about producing measurable results that will keep the corporation running, they also are obliged to deal effectively with their employees. Lately we have discovered the importance of caring leaders. As underlined by Phyllis Davis, “a leader who’s well liked by his or her employees inspires loyalty which in turn increases productivity and keeps morale high and turnover low” (2002). It makes sense that happy employees produce more. However, this is easier said than done. Genuine interest in the welfare of employees is not an innate quality for most people. This is a skill that leaders and managers must constantly reinforce and demonstrate.
    I have had great leaders who demonstrated this caring leadership style and who made it very clearly that I mattered as an individual. Needless to say, my contributions to the organization were clearly reflected. Moreover, I have also had the opportunity to lead, and I did my best to make my subordinates feel cared for. When I was able to help them have their basic needs and concerns met their job satisfaction and productivity spiked.

    Davis, P. Becoming a Caring Leader. (2002). The Entrepreneur.

    • Miguel,
      I agree that people responded to a leader who demonstrates love, in a very productive and positive manner. With a leader that creates positive emotional atmosphere within an organization the moral is high, and turnover rates are usual low. Too often, however; leaders create an environment of fear for their employees in order to meet objectives. This creates an environment that the worker is very stressed, experiences low morale, and productivity is hindered (Daft, 2008, pp. 152-156). I have experienced both types of leadership styles and personally I do my best work under a leader who shows a genuine concern for the welfare of their employees.

  5. I worked with two different types of leadership, which I believe is opposed of one another. I could see how they can influence in the willingness and enthusiasm of the department toward the company vision. One of my first superior was already in the company for many years, had plenty of experience and spoke several languages. However, he was very macho, and did not respect women, especially in a high position; he also used to scream with people instead of talking, and say whatever he had in mind. As a result, I felt undervalued as a professional and feared to talk to him because of his lack of self-control. Consequently, my motivation to do my job decreased.

    On the other hand, one of my last supervisors was very empathetic, caring and good listener with his department. He knew everybody in the department by their names and was willing to help us learn and achieve the company’s objectives. He was concerned about what was going on with us and open to new ideas. Therefore, the department was always with a good energy and committed to developing a good job because we knew we could count on him. It is been five years I left the company and I still have contact with him. I have great memories from the time I worked there.

  6. As leader you should provide a genuine concern for the welfare and safety of your employees both at work and outside the organization. People respond to leaders who show love in a very positive and productive manner. Their moral is very high and the turnover rate is usually very low. Unfortunately a compassionate leader is not the norm instead management frequently does not get to know their employees, especially in large organization.

    The trend that I have experienced in the past is to leave the personal interaction between the employees to the front line supervisors. In two different corporations that I have worked for this was the case. I did not even know who the department manger was besides a name on the monthly business letter. This is not the case with my current employer.

    The management staff has an open door policy and takes time to get too know the employees not just those in their department but the entire facility. This interaction has been a key to the organization’s survival though the recent economic debacle.

    Daft, R. L. (2008). The leadership experience. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning Products.

  7. It is very unfortunate that there are indeed many managers who believe their employees are no more important than a computer of desk. It is the employee that is directly responsible for making or breaking the company by carrying out the corporate strategy, not the executive. This blog post brought to mind the thought Jim Collins’ level 5 leader. Of the 5 levels of leadership the level 5 leader is the pinnacle of this leadership paradigm. The level 5 leaders are often the type of leaders that take a company from good to great. A level 5 leader is one who builds greatness via a blend of personal humility and professional will. Oh greatest importance with this type of leader is personal humility. This is the opposite of the level 1 leader, who is often seen as an ego centric style leader. Within this humility is a drive to focus all attention and ambition towards the company and personnel for whom the leader is responsible for leading. The level 5 leader will often sacrifice personal gain for the better of the company and will assume fault for problems and be the first to give credit to others for a job well done. This is the type of leader that produces sustainable workforces and provides great business results.

    Collins, Jim, “Good-to-Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t”, Random House, London, 2001

  8. Companies who are successful in today’s market have a strong organizational leadership. It is also important to note that a company’s foundation is built on the backs of their employees. Therefore it is imperative that companies continue to change and develop new ways of leadership style. As pointed out in this blog servant leadership is a new approach to managing employees in the 21st century. Benjamin Lichtenwalner, illustrates servant leadership through this statement, “We seek not to lead, but to serve first and find that, in serving, our greatest influence is leading. We seek not to use others for our own gain, but for their benefit and the benefit of their communities. (Lichtenwaler, 2010)” I truly believe to efficiently manage the up and coming working generations companies will need to continue to implore such methods of leadership in order to better connect with new working demographics.

    Lichtenwaler, B. (2010, November 16). Servant leadership manifesto [Online Forum Comment]. Retrieved from

  9. When I start practicing as a physician, I have every intention of using the new leadership model. I want to have happy and productive employees. I want my employees to enjoy coming to work every day. Just by being kind and caring, I can have more productive employees. According to Gamble and Thompson, Jr. (2011), “successfully leading the effort to foster a results-oriented, high performance culture generally entails such leadership actions and managerial practices as: Treating employees with dignity and respect, celebrating individual, group, and company success,….” Letting people know that you care for them and showing encouragement is something all leaders should do. I have worked for some great people, who had genuine care and concern. I have also worked people who made it a chore to have to go to work. I preferred working for those who were positive and encouraging.

    Gamble, J., & Thompson, A. (2011). Essentials of Strategic Management. The Quest for Competitive Advantage. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

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