Telling the tough decisions – how empathy is different from sympathy and why this is important for your leadership

von Marion Ehmann

As a boss, project leader or client responsible, you sometimes have to make tough decisions that disappoint the people you work with. Let´s look at some everyday examples: You might need more resources for a project on short notice and one of your project team members needs to cancel her weekend trip to London. Or you have decided that the young colleague who has prepared a great presentation for your pitch meeting cannot attend the client meeting himself. How do you feel when you have to give such messages? If you are like most people, you will probably feel quite uncomfortable. You anticipate their disappointment even before you open your mouth and then, right, there comes the frowny face . What you would like to do is to just drop the message bomb and run. Even if you know that there is no other way and you have checked all alternatives, you perfectly understand their disappointment – after all, who wouldn´t? In other words: you sympathise with them and it does not feel good for either of you. So, what to do? You might give an empathic approach a try in order to save both your energy and that of your team members. Sympathy and empathy are often confused, but they are quite different: Sympathy is acknowledging another person’s emotional hardship and providing comfort and assurance. Sympathy is ”feeling with”. Empathy is understanding what others are feeling because you have experienced it yourself or can put yourself in their shoes. Empathy is ”feeling into”. This explains why sympathy in situations as in the examples above does not work for you – how are you supposed to provide ”comfort and assurance” when you have to make tough decisions as a leader? What is more, comfort and assurance are most probably not part of your job description ...

Zum vollständigen Artikel

Cookies helfen bei der Bereitstellung unserer Dienste. Durch die Nutzung erklären Sie sich mit der Cookie-Setzung einverstanden. Mehr OK