NWM Culture: Leadership: Shame or Empathy?

Managerial approaches and leadership vary on the environment of the company, the person themselves and how society as whole approaches interacting with each other. The Harvard Business Review article though a bit older coming out in 2015 kind of predicts the future of management in Western Culture.

Mistakes, people make them all the team, hence the saying “I’m only human”. Sometimes we forget this statement for ourselves and for others which can then lead us to shame instead of have empathy for the individual. We forget the human connection we share and expect perfect out of imperfect humans.

The article talks about the natural response we have to mistakes which is initially frustration. We cannot control this feeling, but we can control the way in which we react to this feeling and that employee.

The traditional less long-term affective solution is to reprimand the employee and if it is in front of others you may get other employees to avoid making the same mistake in the future. So now you have not only shamed this employee, but you have made them embarrassed in front their co-workers.

The other approach is kind of a new age approach to managing not only your employees, but also creating a whole culture within a company. Confront the employee with compassion and curiosity.

Believe it or not there is research done on the best approach to make with employees. Shame or empathy? What do you think works best?

“Research has shown that feelings of warmth and and positive relations at work have a greater say over employee loyalty than the size of their paycheck.”

You can get a paycheck at any job, someone can always pay more, but not every company or business can create an environment that employees want to stay in.

There was a study done by Jonathan Haidt of New York University that showed that if employees are look up to their managers and are moved by the compassion and kindness they are more likely to become loyal to that person. In addition if other employees are able to observe this behavior they will also become increasingly loyal and devoted to you and intern the tasks that need to be accomplished.

As you can imagine the opposite reaction being frustration and anger can erode loyalty and may come to bite you when you need something from this employee in the future. Embarrassing or blaming an employee is an old way of management and doing this is a good way not to get the potential out of your employees that you seek.

Neuroimaging researching confirms that receiving empathy from our managers shows a positive reaction in our brains. This then increases employees trust in their leaders.

Responding to a mistake with anger can erode creativity within the employee because it raises their stress levels and fear of messing up again. “You kill the culture of experimentation that is critical to learning and innovation”.

Tips for responding with compassion to employees:

  • Take a moment
    • Step back and review the situation so you can then respond in a more intentional manner, but don’t pretend to not be frustrated.
  • Put yourself in your employees shoes
    • By using the first step of taking a moment you will have the opportunity to empathize with your employee.
    • By doing this you can see parts of the situation you didn’t notice before.
    • This also increases your own self awareness which is extremely important for managers to keep in their mind. It helps you see situations from your employees perspective as well.
  • Forgive
    • Not only is this good for your employees, but also for you. Forgiveness lowers your blood pressure and your employees. It can help you become more satisfied with life and happier, by reducing stress and negative emotions.

By using these responses with employees you can lower your turnover rate, create a more positive working environment, and this can also create healthier employees that take less sick days. Your bottom line is to sell a product or service and acquire loyal clients, well when you have happy employees this can be the end product.

Keep up with our LinkedIn to see what our leaders at NWM think about management and employee success!

You can also see our own employees and leaders here!

Written by Tom Finnerty

August 5, 2021

Related Articles

Featured Employees – July

Featured Employees – July

We love to feature our employees and the work they do and the success they have had. To keep you informed and because they deserve it! With that short introduction lets get into sharing our employees with you! Rob Phillips Rob Phillips has worked primarily in the...

read more
NWM – Services Offered

NWM – Services Offered

At Northwest Monitoring we offer as variety of services including, draw inspections, loan monitoring, project plan and cost reviews, and construction consulting for residential, commercial, land development, and modular construction projects. Draw Inspections We...

read more
About NWM

About NWM

At Northwest Monitoring we provide loan monitoring services, project cost reviews, and general consulting for residential, commercial, land development, and modular construction. These services are provided across the United States. Our Approach We work as an...

read more


Solutions for residential construction loans


Solutions for commercial construction loans

Land Development

Solutions for land development loans


Solutions for modular construction loans

Our core values are integrity, trust, honesty, and responsiveness.

About Us

Trusted since 2007.

Join Our Network

Join our growing team of inspectors.

Project Portfolio

See some of our previous projects.

Case Studies

Our track-record of proven results.

Learn more about us and let us help answer some questions for you.

Lender Resources

Access our collection of documents filled with helpful industry insights.

Webinars + Videos

Join us to learn more about the construction industry.

Inspector Resources

Login to access helpful information.

Company Updates

Read our monthly newsletters and industry articles.