If you want your employees to perform better, enforce discipline with kindness and compassion instead of just wielding authority, suggests a study. According to the research, showing compassion to subordinates almost always pays off, especially when combined with the enforcement of clear goals and benchmarks. Employees with bosses who showed a strong focus on both task completion and the well-being of subordinates demonstrated a strong effect on performance. The reason for this phenomenon may extend all the way back to childhood, the researchers said.
“The parent and child relationship is the first leader-follower relationship that people experience. It can become a bit of a prototype of what we expect out of leadership going forward, and the paternalistic leadership style kind of resembles that of a parent,” said Chou-Yu Tsai, Assistant Professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton, US.
“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,” Tsai added.
Further, the study noted that employees with bosses who were authoritarian almost always had negative results on job performance, while those with benevolent chiefs always had a positive impact on job performance.
In other words, showing compassion motivated employees to become better workers. For the study, published in the journal The Leadership Quarterly, the team surveyed nearly 1,000 members of the Taiwanese military and almost 200 adults working full-time in the US.
Tsai said his main takeaway for managers is to put just as much or even more of an emphasis on the well-being of your employees as you do on hitting targets and goals. “Subordinates and employees are not tools or machines that you can just use. They are human beings and deserve to be treated with respect,” said Tsai.