An Eye Towards Compassion Boosts Employee Performance (Study)


Trending News: Treating employees with a mix of kindness and compassion holds important benefits.


A newly released study reveals classical paternalistic leadership styles help boost employee performance.


Do you currently supervise employees? If so, have you ever reflected on your leadership style? For example, do treat reports with kindness or do you simply expect them to get the work done?

Knowing the answer to that question is important. That’s because a newly released study from researchers at Binghamton University, State University at New York, suggests supervisors who show the right mix of compassion and authority get the best results from employees.

Specifically, we’re talking about the classical paternalistic leadership style. That’s a ten-dollar term used to describe managers who are primarily concerned with the well-being of employees and but also focused on task-completion.

Published in The Leadership Quarterly, investigators surveyed nearly 1000 members of Taiwan’s military and nearly 200 working adults in the United States.

The researchers wanted to know the performance levels of subordinates from three specific approaches to leading. These included:

  • Authoritarianism-dominant leadership: These are managers who lead with absolute authority and are very dominant. Little consideration is given to employee needs or their well-being.
  • Benevolence-dominant leadership: Caring, compassionate leaders. They genuinely care about the welfare of employees.
  • Classical paternalistic leadership: As the name implies, the style is more parental. Care and compassion for employees are present but so is the focus on completing tasks.

No surprise – the least effective approach to leading and getting results was the authoritarianism-dominant approach. In fact, it had net-negative results on performance.

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Do you have an eye towards compassion when managing others?

On the other hand, the classical paternalistic leadership style yielded very positive outcomes.

Investigators think the results from the paternalistic approach may be attributed to early childhood memories whereby the first blueprints were given for leader-follower relationships. But on an intuitive level, doesn’t this make sense?

That said, the approach to leadership that also yielded strong results was the benevolence-dominant typology.

Translation: Putting equal emphasis on employee well-being and goal attainment is the best way to lead workers.

This means treating them with kindness and compassion while exerting your authority with care.

More: What exactly sets leaders and followers apart?

Chou-Yu Tsai, one of the study’s investigators and assistant professor of management at Binghamton University, shared the following in a press release.

“Subordinates and employees are not tools or machines that you can just use. They are human beings and deserve to be treated with respect

Make sure you are focusing on their well-being and helping them find the support they need, while also being clear about what your expectations and priorities are. This is a work-based version of ‘tough love’ often seen in parent-child relationships.”

Do you treat employees with kindness and compassion?

About MJ Duff 44 Articles
Marie-Jones Duff is a Los Angeles based freelance multimedia journalist and frequent traveler with a fondness for all things bizarre and nerdy. Look for posts that focus on everything from men's fashion to science.