Management theory has generally focused on motivating employees through intellectual, reason-based methods. As Langelett points out, human beings are emotional creatures at the deepest level, so any management theory that doesn’t tackle the emotional side of human nature is inherently flawed. Only when they’re in a safe, positive work environment can employees function at top efficiency, Langelett says. His empathy-based management approach focuses on providing such an environment by meeting employees’ emotional needs. He starts by explaining empathy—building it on “an understanding of what the person is experiencing and of the underlying problem, or why the person behaves a certain way”—and why it’s important, particularly from a corporate standpoint. He then describes how managers can use empathy to create that positive work environment. Next, he talks about how to resolve employee crises and lists common empathetic practices, along with practices that managers should avoid. Finally, Langelett describes how an empathetic manager might behave during a typical day and lays out step-by-step approaches for coping with common workplace scenarios. He includes some sample conversations that a manager and employee might share, giving specific examples of how to deploy empathetic tactics in common situations. Indeed, Langelett is quite helpful in explaining exactly how his theory can be carried out in practice. It’s also clear that the empathetic management style offers unparalleled opportunities for forging strong relationships between managers and those who directly report to them. However, one significant issue—which Langelett himself brings up—is that it’s easy for an empathetic manager to appear weak thanks to a “soft” style. Langelett does provide some advice for handling manipulative employees to keep them from taking advantage of the empathetic approach and offers a brief example of how to explain the benefits of the management style to superiors, but he doesn’t talk at all about how to interact with other managers on roughly the same level—which can be a real problem, because such managers are often in direct competition with each other for resources and promotions. They might, then, be quick to attack another manager whom they perceive as weak.
An intriguing, surprisingly practical management theory that’s a good fit for the modern workplace.