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Master of Business Administration (MBA)

School of Business and Law

People and Organisations
Unit 2 Understanding Others: Empathy and Trust


Table of Contents
Learning objectives
What is empathy?
A cautionary note about empathy
Trust and Trustworthiness
Authentic Leadership
Required Readings
Journal Readings

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Robbins (2009) reminds us that organisations are social entities and we cannot view
them as purely economic and somehow separate from society. Increased
expectations have been placed on companies to become socially responsible by
being good corporate citizens and to address their impact on the environment.
However we have also seen scandals and and senior executives have been exposed
and paid high prices for what constitutes unethical behaviours and breaches of
Arguably for managers to effectively engage and sustain positive social interactions
and relationships with others requires social awareness and sensitivity towards
others. How does being empathetic assist organisational performance and what
does it take for a manager to be empathetic to his or her employees?
These corporate breaches of trust can have a cascaded effect and this brings into
question the relationship between leadership and integrity that falls into the realm
of social and emotional intelligence. At a micro level, it is about the nature of
social relation dynamics and how managers can positively or negatively influence
people, events and situations. We explore different models and approaches to trust
building and trustworthiness as the fundamental basis for sustaining relationships,
be they between colleagues, with superiors or subordinates or other stakeholders.
Gaining respect and maintaining credibility requires managers to demonstrate
openness, fairness and integrity. Relationships that are established or managed
from these perspectives are more likely to endure and grow as distinct from those
that operate from the basis of deceit and mistrust. We need to acknowledge that
businesses need to have relationships with clients, suppliers and regulators that are
firmly based on trust and transparency. Sustaining such relationships is the basis for
continued economic growth and prosperity.

Learning objectives
This unit has the following learning objectives:

Recognition of the skills or behaviours required to demonstrate social

An appreciation of the importance of empathy and trust in leading
and managing individuals and teams
Recognition of the distinction between being emotional intelligent
and social intelligent

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Examination of authenticity as a foundation creating an environment

of trust leading to sustainable relationships.
An understanding of applying various techniques for a climate of trust
within organisational settings
An appreciation of the importance of managerial ethics
An opportunity to reflect on our own competence levels, values and
attitudes through the use of selected diagnostic tools.

The importance of how managers relate to others has been reinforced
throughout the previous units. In Unit 1 strong emphasis was placed on
managing people competencies and the contrasting approaches of Pedler and
Boyatzis and Goleman. Within these models the emphasis on having a positive
regard for others, concern with social relationships, continuing sensitivity to
events and important social awareness were all viewed as important
competencies to be effective leaders and managers
Empathy and trust also relates to understanding others and being able to alter
the social dynamics between managers and their employees to influence and
motivate performance. Managing performance requires specific behaviours
and competencies to guide and develop employees. Being empathetic and
demonstrating trustworthiness can also affect employee attitudes and
In the MBA Foundation Course Business Communications, we addressed verbal
and non-verbal communication principles and techniques. Empathy, trust and
ethics are clearly related to these interpersonal skills when we consider
consistency in how we communicate and share information and manage
relationships with others.
Research undertaken in Johnson & Johnson (cited in The Harvard Business
review 1998) highlighted how leaders who rated higher on performance also
rated higher than colleagues on emotional intelligence.

What is empathy?
Carlopio and Andrawartha (2012) suggest that empathy is the ability to
understand and connect with another persons feelings. They point out that
empathy is not the same thing as sympathy or adopting the same feelings or
emotions as the other person.
Boyatzis, Goleman and Rhee (2000) include Empathy as a competency which
they describe as; sensing others' feelings and perspectives, and taking an
active interest in their concerns, although why this should be the case is not
identified. In the most recent version of the ESCI, Goleman et al. (2011)
whilst empathy still features in the model, it is described as: picking up cues
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to what is being felt and thought. It appears that the purpose of empathy in
this latest version is to analyse why people are acting in a particular way but
it does not directly say how one should behave toward the individual, or what
should be done with the information
Empathy reflects how individuals (managers) demonstrate participative and
sensitive responses and behaviours towards others (Moran 1987; Srinivas
1995); (Rhinesmith 1996); (Gregersen et al 1998) emphasises genuine concern
for others whilst (Jordon and Cartwright 1998) emphasise participative warm
heartedness as demonstrative of empathy. Carlopio and Andrawartha (2012)
describe the emotionally inmtelligent manager as one that can respond
appropriately to the emotions of others and have the competencies to not
only respond to the emotions of others but also encourage and support others
to express their emotions in appropriate ways.

In this video Daniel Goleman identifies three types of empathy: cognitive empathy,
emotional empathy and emphatic concern. Importantly he links the absence of
emotional and emphatic concern to narcissists and corporate psychopaths.

Having empathy can assist managers in dealing with employees in stressful

and emotionally charged situations. Being empathetic can also support others
in the application of interpersonal and communication skills to effectively
understand an individual situation and experience from a different
Empathy also fits within a framework for understanding emotions and
communication in the workplace and the specific skills and behaviours used to
manage difficult or challenging workplace situations. Compassionate
communication is a specific aspect of the communication process that used in
employee counselling for ways to connect with employees includes a mix of
emotional process (empathy) and cognitive processes (perspective taking).
Empathy has also been defined as communication of compassion in the
workplace. Miller (2007) suggests that there are various elements needed to
produce such behaviours, emotional and cognitive. These elements include
processing, noticing, connecting, and responding all involve various skills,
behaviours and cognitive (knowledge) and thinking skills.

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Empathy can therefore be viewed from a competency perspective and broadly

has been defined as sensing others feelings and perspectives and taking an
active interest in their concerns.

Karl Albrecht (2006) suggests that social intelligence as a more extended

aspect of multiple intelligence theory. In Albrechts model empathy fits within
a five dimension model that represents the degree of social intelligence
within an individual.
These five key dimensions include
1. situational awareness
2. presence,
3. authenticity,
4. clarity and
5. empathy.

Having social competence also means being able to act with integrity and not
manipulate social situations based on self interest. These areas of operating
highlight the links between empathy, trust and ethics. Empathy has also been
discussed in terms of its contribution towards intellectual effectiveness and
management of the multicultural workplace. Studies have highlighted the
importance of cultural empathy.
Chang (2004) suggests that managers need to have specific competencies for
effective management of a multicultural workgroup. Results of a study
undertaken by Chang assessed the competency needs of managers responsible
for managing multicultural employees. He suggests that various skills or
behaviours are required to display sensitivity and awareness of differences.
Chang suggests that cross cultural empathy, a variation on the generic term
empathy, needs to be applied by managers when engaging in interpersonal
relationships with people from different cultural backgrounds.

A Cautionary note about Empathy

As noted earlier, Goleman et al.(2011) still feature empathy as a critical
competency, but dont really explain in what context we would use it and
why. As Caruso and Salovey, (2004, 171) admit; A manager who is expert in
managing emotions can use the ability to manipulate employees. Segon and
Booth (2013) develop this concept further and warn that as emotional
intelleigence can be learned, it does not mean that all managers who develop
competencies use them in an ethical manner. Caruso and Salovey, (2004, 171)
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also indicate that: the emotionally intelligent managers moral perspective

is, we hope, well developed. From this analysis it can be concluded that the
Mayer, Salovey and Caruso agree that EI lacks any inherent ethical
underpinnings and specific ethical ability Rather it is assumed that managers
are already ethical and will use the EI competencies in an ethical manner

Trust and Trustworthiness

Research has suggested that organisational cultures that have high levels of
internal trust between organisational members are more successful, adoptive
and innovative compared against organisations with low levels of internal
trust (Shockley, Zalabah et al 2000).
It is important to consider how we choose to use our knowledge and
behaviours to reinforce genuineness, sincerity and consistency when
displaying empathy and trust towards others.

Trust in the Workplace

Think of a situation that has occurred in your workplace when you observed or
experienced what you believed were examples of a lack of trust and consider the
following questions.
How do people react in a situation where there is a lack of trust or
What feelings or behaviours are demonstrated?
How do these feelings and reactions affect workplace morale and
What actions do you believe are required by managers to build trust in the
Prepare a brief summary of your workplace experience for discussion in class.

McKnight and Chervany (2000) state that organisational trust is usually defined
as the level of confidence that one individual has in anothers competence
and his or her willingness to act in a fair, ethical, and predictable manner.
Bromiley and Cummings (1995) propose a specific description of organisational
trust as, an individuals belief, or a common belief among the members of a
group, according to which another individual or group
(a) makes good- faith efforts to behave in accordance with any commitments
both explicit or implicit,
(b) is honest in whatever negotiations preceded such commitments, and

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(c) does not take excessive advantage of another even when the opportunity
is available.
Jones and George (1998) described trust is an expression of confidence
between individuals or groups in an exchange of some kind. They describe
confidence as a belief that they will not be harmed or put at risk by the
actions of other individuals or groups, or that no individuals or groups party to
the exchange will exploit the others vulnerability. They also argued that trust
leads to expectations among people that allows them to manage the
uncertainty or risk associated with their interactions so that they can benefit
from the cooperation.
Goleman (1998) suggests that the concept of trust requires consistency in how
managers display particularly interpersonal skills and behaviours towards
others to engender feelings of confidence and reassurance that managers
genuinely care about their employees or peers. When people feel a sense of
trust this means managers are respected. Trustworthiness and
conscientiousness are therefore viewed as two important competencies
identified within the self regulation cluster.
Mayer et al. (1995) highlights three key factors that affect the interactions
between a trustor and trustee in relationship management:


Building trusting relationships between managers and employees requires both

emotional and social skills. Schindler and Thomas suggest that trust contains
five key elements and in order to demonstrate trustworthiness the following


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In this video AnnHerrmannNehdiprovidesanoverviewofStephenMR


Trusting behaviour clearly reflects a moral duty or commitment (Kramer &

Goleman 1995). MBA Students who have completed the foundation course
Business Ethics and Sustainability, will note that these characteristics parallel
the virtue approach to ethics and is discussed below,
Many rational theories see trust based on decisions whether to be consciously
trustworthy and that willingness to trust others is based on estimates of
probability that others will reciprocate (Hardin 1993). There has been a
movement away from the rational view of trust to motivational and affective
dimensions to prompt people to engage in trust behaviours.
Cummings and Bromiley (1996) suggest that there are three components of
trust which include cognitive, attitudinal and behavioural components.
This perspective contrasts against the view espoused by Williamson (1993)
that trust is reserved for special sound relationships between family and
friends and does not fit within an organisational social system.

Ethical considerations
When we consider the social intelligence arguably we also need to consider
what is ethical and how ethics fits within the framework of empathy and
trust. Whilst individuals can have a degree of social awareness, or display
positive personal traits such as agreeableness, it is a separate consideration
what they do with the information they have and how they manage
relationships with others in an ethical manner. This brings us to the area of
virtues and character.
Becher (1998) and Parry and Proctor Thomas (2002) argue their concept of
integrity is still underdeveloped, vague and ill defined. Character has been
defined as doing the right thing despite outside pressure to the contrary
(Likona, 1991), and has been elsewhere seen as an essential leadership
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attribute (Barlow et al 2003). In a leadership capacity, character is seen as

moral excellence: (Hendrix et al, 2003, p.60). Sarros, Cooper and Hartican
(2006) take a socio-psychological perspective on character and recognise that
social as well as individual psychological factors influence the expression of
character. Cloninger et al, 1993; Millon, 1996; Sperry 1997) focus on the three
character dimensions of self-reliance, cooperativeness, and selftranscendence (Cited in Jarros).
To act with character is to show virtue. Tjelveit (2003, p.400) writes:
character and virtue have to do with the ethical qualities of persons, with
what we view as good, or excellent, or praiseworthy about them.

Authentic Leadership
These virtues or moral imperatives feature in much of the leadership research
and in particular the research on authentic leadership (Fairholm, 1991;
Gardner and Avolio, 1998; Luthans and Avolio 2003; Mat et al, 2003; Price
2002). Authentic leaders:

Know who they are and what they believe in;

Show consistency between their values, ethical reasoning and actions;
Develop positive psychological states such as confidence, optimism,
hope and resilience in themselves and their associates; and
Are widely known and respected for their integrity (UNL Gallup
Leadership Institute, 2004).

Barker and Coy (2003) identified seven virtues by which Australian executives
could be identified namely:


The concept of virtue ethics is introduced into this unit in this context to help
us understand how we assess the integrity, character or attitude of a manager
in day to day business dealings. The theory of virtue ethics views ethical
behaviour is a function or outcome of character that is derived from attitude.
Solomon (2005) suggests that people acquire virtues such as integrity, honesty
as habitual behaviours and that these behavioural competencies are desirable
or ethical to display towards others instead of lying, cheating or ambition.
This area raises some interesting points in how we consider how we can
acquire competence to be more effective leaders or managers.

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Being ethical in terms of virtuous behaviour towards others, requires

managers to be able to have established a solid foundation in managing social
relationship and creating a sense of trust in the workplace.
What this unit identifies is the important connection between cognitive,
attitudinal and behavioural components within competencies.

Related Competencies
Within each unit we have observed the different competency approaches
relevant to the specific topic area consistent with previous readings.
Sometimes defined as socio-emotional competencies, empathy and trust fit
within a framework which integrates verbal and non verbal communication
and interpersonal skills. Quinn et al (2015) identify empathy using the
Goleman perspective and highlight its importance in the active listening
process. The describe emphatic listening and an important skill for managers
to develop as a way of expressing empathy. Quinn et al. (2015) also note that
trust is the antidote to defensiveness.
The faculty recognises that this unit is particularly relevant to behaviours
and cultures and social competence fits with empathy and trust and ethics
also fit with attitude formation.
Pedlers skills and attributes model is most useful when addressing empathy
and trust.

Critical Competency 1: Empathy

The emmpathy competency streamlined by Goleman et al (2002) and
originating from the social awareness quadrant is a critical competency for
managers to acquire in being able to sense others feelings and perspectives
as well as sharing an active interest or concern for others.
Boyatzis, Cowen and Kolb (1995) position empathy within the people
management cluster. Empathy is also positioned at the top of people
management cluster (Boyatzis 1982).

Critical Competency 2: Continuing Sensitivity to Events

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Pedler et al. (2013) Level 1 competency of continuing sensitivity to events.

Without this basic ability to actually recognise that people and situations and
reading the landscape then it is quite likely that managers will be ineffectual
in their decision making or influence strategies, sensitivity and social
awareness link with empathy. This competency recognises the need to
respond to the soft information, specifically the emotions and feelings of

Critical Competency 3 Social Skills and Abilities

These comprise the range of skills and abilities identified above, dealing
with effective verbal and non-verbal communication, active listening and the
ability to display empathy and to use power appropriately.

Critical Competency 4: Authenticity

Albrecht (2006) in developing his social intelligence has identified compared
skills required to the socially intelligent. Authenticity addresses those
attitudinal and behavioural domains that require people to act in a genuine
or sincere manner, displays acts of humility and not succumb to social
Empathy and trust are specifically identified within the self regulation
empathy and social skills cluster. Ethics is arguably particularly relevant to
all clusters and an antecedent of trust relates to the self regulation cluster.

Required Reading
Reading 1
Albrecht, K (2006) Social Intelligence, The New Science of Success Jossey Bass,
San Francisco

Chapters 4 and 6
Albrecht (2006) introduces the notion of a different kind of smart that various
diagnostics to profile what constitutes smart or socially intelligent person and
uses behaviours including empathy, understanding and cooperation.

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Albrecht, in the first chapter reading, discusses the importance of authenticity

and building skills to demonstrate authenticity. The social intelligence principles
raised here reveal ourselves in terms of honesty, sincerity and social
manipulation. Authenticity is also examined in the first journal article reading.
The second chapter of Albrechts book covers important themes including
connecting with others and maintenance processes required to influence and
shape positive work environments where managers need to be more empathetic.
A clear distinction is made between what are defined as toxic vs. nourishing
behaviours. Albrecht also places a great emphasis on social interaction.
The notion of blind spots and social improprieties are also examined. Take note of
the SPACE dimensions, particularly situation awareness, authenticity and

Journal Readings
These journal articles have been selected for their relevance as well as
contrasting perspectives given that there are three areas that are covered namely
empathy, trust and ethics.

Journal Reading 1
Kelletta J, et al (2006) Empathy and the Emergence of Task and Relations
Leaders The Leadership Quarterly, Vol 17, Iss.2, April 2006, pp 146-162

Kelletta et al (2006) examines skills of work groups and perceptions of emotional

abilities [i.e. empathy, ability to identify others emotions and ability to express
ones emotions], cognitive abilities and leadership potential. The article includes a
literature review component as well as studies undertaken. Leaders high on
cognitive abilities and task skills, the authors suggest are not necessarily high on
relations leadership. It is interesting to explore the relationship between
personality traits and empathy. A challenging question surrounds the unclear
relationship between empathy, relations and task leadership. The authors suggest
that the ability to identify and express emotions is antecedents to empathy. The
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ability to recognise or identify emotions does not automatically suggest that

positive social interactions can follow. Self monitoring can lead to manipulation of
others [this sentiment echoes Albrechts assertions in the previous readings].
Research findings view empathy as a key factor and mediator of emotional

Journal Reading 2
Elangovan, A.R. Auer-Rizzi , W., & Erna Szabo, E (2015). Its the act that counts: minimizing
post-violation erosion of trust: Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 36
No.1, pp. 81-96

The purpose of this paper is to examine the effects of damage incurred by the
trustor as a result of a trust violation and the impact of different levels of postviolation trust repair behaviours by the trustee on the subsequent erosion of
trust. The authors surveyed over 280 middle managers pre and post trust
violating events and assessed the level of impact on the trustor.

Journal Reading 3
Mahsud, R. Yukl, G. & Prussia, (G 2010),"Leader empathy, ethical leadership, and relationsoriented behaviors as antecedents of leader-member exchange quality", Journal of
Managerial Psychology, Vol. 25 No. 6 pp. 561 - 577

This article explores the relationship between leadership, empathy and

leader member exchange (LMX) The authors findings indicate the
importance of ethical leadership and empathy and key aspects of leadership
practice and should be part of formal leadership programs in addition to
leader training and development.

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Journal Reading 4
Orme, G. & Ashton, C. (2003). Ethics - a foundation competency. Industrial and
Commercial Training, Vol. 35, No.5, pp 184-190

Orme and Ashton acknowledge how ethics has been added to corporate values but
acknowledge that we still have not realised the perfect ethical workplace.
This article acknowledges how businesses are accommodating ethics within
corporate values but the authors also recognise that there is a more substantive
process required for integration and alignment of ethical practices, wise
management practices behaviours and core competencies. Take note of the three
approaches, social, transcendental and tactical. When defining ethics, also consider
Robinson and Garratts questions cited in the article. This article also revisits
emotional intelligence and its connection with ethics. The authors emphasise an
important point, that ethics transcends the competency framework. This is an
important point given Salovey and Mayerss assertion that emotional intelligence
pre-supposes an ethical disposition

Albrecht, K. (2006), Social intelligence : the new science of success, JosseyBass, San Francisco
Carlopio, J. & Andrewartha, G. (2012), Developing management skills: A
comprehensive guide for leaders, Pearson Education, Frenchs Forest.
De Janasz, S E, Dowd KE & Schneider B.Z, 2005, Interpersonal skills in
organizations, McGraw Hill, Boston.
Elangovan, A.R. Auer-Rizzi , W., & Erna Szabo, E (2015). Its the act that
counts: minimizing post-violation erosion of trust: Leadership & Organization
Development Journal, Vol. 36 No.1, pp. 81-96
Goleman D., Boyatzis, R.E. & McKee, A. (2004), Primal leadership : learning
to lead with emotional intelligence, Harvard Business School Press, Boston,
Kelletta J, et al (2006) Empathy and the Emergence of Task and relations
Leaders The Leadership Quarterly, Vol 17, No.2, April 2006, pp 146-162.
Mahsud, R. Yukl, G. & Prussia, (G 2010),"Leader empathy, ethical leadership, and
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relations-oriented behaviors as antecedents of leader-member exchange quality",

Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 25 No. 6 pp. 561 577.
Orme, G., & Ashton, C. (2003). Ethics - a foundation competency. Industrial and
Commercial Training, Vol. 35, No.5, pp 184-190
Quinn, Faerman, Thompson, McGrath & St. Bright, D. (2015). Becoming a Master
Manager: A competing values based approach, 6th edn, Wiley and Sons, Hoboken,
Sarros, J, Cooper B, and Hartican, A (2006). Leadership and character,
Leadership and Organisation Development Journal, Vol.27, No. 8, pp.682-699v

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