Tag Archives: supervision

Empathy in the Workplace: Fact or Crap

by Jennifer R. Keup

OK, confession time: I have become highly suspicious of the use of the term “empathy” in the workplace, especially with respect to leadership.

I realize that this statement is likely to be interpreted as heretical in the highly emotionally-intelligent, person-centered, post-modern world of student affairs practice and leadership. So, let me clarify that I am actually a kind-hearted, sensitive person who values plurality. I cried during the death scenes in the movie Titanic, have been known to get emotional during commercials featuring babies and families, and maintain many longstanding personal and professional relationships. I value diversity, seek opportunities for international exposure and awareness, and actively integrate intercultural perspectives into my life and the lives of my children. I am a good “read” of people, am often the person to whom friends and colleagues confide, and regularly feel my heartstrings pulled by the trials, tribulations, and accomplishments of others. In other words, I believe that empathy is a real and important trait and that it is present in my own innate personality, although I will admit that I have never participated in any formalized training that would allow me to cite a specific measure of the depth or degree of this aspect of my psyche.

My trepidation has more to do with the way that “empathy” is cited and, I would argue, largely misused in the modern workplace.  Empathy is “the ability to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions, or experiences of others” (Gentry, Weber, & Sadri, 2007, p. 4).  It is the ability to see and understand the worldview of others and “share their perspective” (Gallup, 2014, para. 1).  It requires trust, the ability to read subtext and nonverbal cues, strong listening skills, and a healthy balance between compassion and cognition. Several studies of professional performance and leadership in higher education and the corporate world provide evidence that empathy is an important professional quality. This body of research shows that empathy is a critical component of successful management, is related to employee satisfaction and productivity, and is becoming an ever more important leadership quality in a pluralistic and global society. Continue reading Empathy in the Workplace: Fact or Crap

Lessons from the Field: Feminist Supervision

by Heather Shea Gasser

This entry was modified from the original post on heathersheagasser.com

Very early on in my career in student affairs I had a really terrible supervisor (who will remain nameless). He was a “good ole’ boy” in the purest sense, catering not to his staff but to the upper administration (nearly all men) at the college. He undermined my role as the primary advisor to a group of students frequently: sometimes he provided only lukewarm support of my decisions and other times he blatantly advised students to take a course of action in direct opposition to my previous advisement. It probably comes as no shock that I moved on from that position as quickly as possible. There is nothing worse than having an unsupportive and hierarchical supervisor.

Supervision in student affairs comes in all shades. Some supervisors are as developmental and intentional in supervising their staff as they are in working with undergraduate students, applying lessons of Sanford’s “challenge and support” in every context (maybe inappropriately at times). Continue reading Lessons from the Field: Feminist Supervision