Two companies merged, creating redundant jobs in most divisions.

One division manager called his people together and gave a gloomy speech that emphasized the number of people who would likely soon be fired.  The manager of another division also met with his people to share the realities; but he also was up-front about his own worry and confusion, and he promised to keep people informed and to treat everyone fairly.

The first manager saw his division sink as many demoralized people, especially the most talented, departed. The second manager retained his best people; his division remained as productive as ever.

— Adapted from What Makes a Leader?  Harvard Business Review;  Daniel Goleman.  Rutgers Graduate School of Applied Professional Psychology.

Bad manager; good manager?  Happens every day, pretty much everywhere.  That’s life at work.  That’s business.

But business is personal.  Rational and emotional.  Logical and psychological.  Profits and people.

There is no denying the affective domain of work.

One of the managers above gets this.  He may or may not have been trained in change and change management, but it is clear that he possesses the essence of really effective change management.


The first manager was too worried about his own fate to consider the feelings of his anxiety-stricken associates.  The second knew intuitively what his people were feeling, and he acknowledged their fears with his words.

When it comes to business, we rarely speak of empathy.   The very word seems unbusinesslike, out of place amid the tough realities of the workplace.  Even more rarely do we hear of managers being praised, let alone rewarded, for their empathy.

And it’s not, I believe, because they are not capable.  Even in the most formal leaders, I see and hear empathy in breakfast meetings, over lunch, in parking lot conversations…

But it tends not to be exhibited in the office.  As if it would be perceived as a weakness.  Ironically, it really is just the opposite!

And when business managers are empathetic at work, with their people, in times of change, positive things happen.

Whatever the change management model, they all teach that with the right support people can move beyond fear and resistance.  They can cope; they will adapt; they do transition.

To get a handle on what the “right support” is, empathy is essential.

Because business is personal … rational and emotional … logical and psychological.

And profits come through people.  And people must work through change.

And leaders must manage with empathy.