Role Reversal: How managers are being evaluated by their teams on counts of empathy & care

With the second wave of the pandemic taking everyone by surprise, managers are expected to demonstrate very different behavioural skills

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In the pre-COVID era, the expectations from managers were very different. The organisations primarily expected them to deliver and meet the organisational goals, make every team member productive and keep them engaged. On the other hand, the employees expected their managers to be supportive, recognise good work, motivate them and act as guides.

However, in the post pandemic era, especially during the second wave this year, employees needed someone who could understand them and help them survive the situation. That is where the role of managers also changed.

Managers and team leaders were required to demonstrate a very different kind of behavioural skill, which was more about empathy and care. This was necessary because the expectations and needs of their team members were different. Most organisations showed solidarity in supporting their employees, emotionally and financially, irrespective of hierarchy, and expected the same from their managers.

The change in expectations from managers has also impacted the way they are evaluated by their employees and the management.

“During pre-pandemic times, managers were evaluated by organisations on aspects, such as achievement of organisational goals and productivity of employees. However, now, the ‘sensitivity’ factor in decision making has gained importance. As a manager, one has to be sensitive towards people because there is no way of knowing what the other person is going through.”

Srinath Krishnan, country head, total rewards, HPE

Many organisations now follow a 360-degree performance appraisal process, in which not just the employees but even the managers are evaluated on their performance by their employees.

Generally, such processes are carried out through an employee- engagement survey or a manager feedback survey, where employees have to answer certain questions and give a feedback to the manager. Mostly, such feedback is kept anonymous to safeguard the interest of the employees. Usually, employees rate managers on whether they are able to learn something under them, or whether each team member is treated equally during appraisals or in terms of recognitions, or whether they feel engaged at work and enjoy what they are doing.

There are certain additional parameters for evaluation, that is, care, empathy and ensuring employee wellbeing.

“During pre-pandemic times, managers were evaluated by organisations on aspects, such as achievement of organisational goals and productivity of employees. However, now, the ‘sensitivity’ factor in decision making has gained importance. As a manager, one has to be sensitive towards people because there is no way of knowing what the other person is going through,” says Srinath Krishnan, country head, total rewards, HPE.

“Now the focus has shifted from engagement to employee wellbeing, which includes physical wellbeing and social wellbeing. Managers are expected to be more caring rather than productivity driven.”

Manoj Kumar Sharma, CHRO, Aarti Industries

In the last two months, managers have had to be very compassionate towards employees and show empathy and care. Krishnan states that in his industry, the parameters for evaluating managers have changed. “Parameters, such as achievement of organisational goals have remained the same but the elements of ensuring employee wellbeing, relaxation in achievement of goals and making available certain resources that employees required during the pandemic, have been added. On the basis of these parameters, not just employees, but even the organisations have evaluated their managers,” reveals Krishnan.

Manoj Kumar Sharma, CHRO, Aarti Industries, also agrees that the expectations of employees have changed. “Now the focus has shifted from engagement to employee wellbeing, which includes physical wellbeing and social wellbeing. Managers are expected to be more caring rather than productivity driven,” states Sharma.

At Aarti Industries, Sharma shares that managers have been evaluated on their ability to be caring and supportive. “I can very proudly say that our last engagement survey has shown a very positive result. Our managers have got good scores, especially on the employee wellbeing part,” says Sharma.

“Empathy and care have always been a part of the core values of the company and every manager is bound to demonstrate such traits at the workplace.”

Jayati Roy, director – HR, Barco India.

At Barco India,“Empathy and care have always been a part of the core values of the company and every manager is bound to demonstrate such traits at the workplace.” says Jayati Roy, director – HR, Barco India.

She adds, “While we have been practising these behaviours in our organisation for a long time, in many other organisations these values and traits have taken a forefront during the pandemic.”

Many businesses have shifted their focus from accelerating business growth to supporting their employees. Several firms have admitted that their main concern during this pandemic has been ‘survival’, and the bigger agenda has been to keep every employee safe. Therefore, in the evaluation process as well, it is natural for managers to be evaluated on the basis of their demonstration of behaviours that ensure employee well-being at the workplace.

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