The pandemic has changed a lot in the world, including what you might need from your boss to succeed.
Rising anxiety and stress – both at home and at work – since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic means that more than ever, employees need more empathy and flexibility from their bosses, according to Caitlin Duffy, director of research at the consulting firm Gartner. The pandemic “made their personal and professional lives merge,” Duffy told CNBC Make It.
Gartner conducted extensive research on what employees expect from their managers now, more than two years after the pandemic. After reviewing academic papers, surveying thousands of workers and conducting interviews, Gartner found that it all comes down to a concept called “human leadership.”
It’s a phrase that describes bosses who lead by showing empathy. They also adapt to meet the unique needs of their employees and empower self-expression to create a happier and more productive workplace, Duffy says.
Unfortunately, this type of boss is far from the norm. Just over 1 in 4 employees, 29%, say their supervisors are effective at human leadership, according to a 2022 Gartner study.
That’s a problem, Duffy says: The emotional impact of the pandemic has created a “constant shift in the workforce” that requires human leadership empathy and flexibility. “Employees now expect leaders at work to handle all of their personal needs, which have become more complex and sensitive over the past few years,” she adds.
And it’s not just the workers who win. Workplaces where managers demonstrate human leadership tend to have employees who are significantly more engaged in their work, leading to better overall performance, according to Gartner research. The company found improvements in the general well-being of employees, which made them more likely to stay with the company instead of looking for a new job.
“This affects not only the employees themselves. There is an impact on downstream businesses,” says Duffy.
Whether you’re looking for a more supportive boss—or you’re a manager looking for ways to better serve the needs of your employees—here are the three key qualities of human leadership, according to Duffy:
An empowering boss encourages you to be more authentic where you work. For example, an authentic manager may invite employees to share new ideas they may have with the team or express feelings during tense social and political events occurring in the world.
Your boss can ensure that their employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings by opening up first. “Employees really want to be able to give their full strength at work, and leaders need to invite them to do so,” says Duffy. “It starts with the leaders who do it first.”
This kind of manager shows genuine care, respect and concern for the well-being of employees.
Being an empathetic boss can look like recognizing your employees’ struggles—both on and off the job—whether it’s burnout, mental health issues, or a family emergency. It can also look like creating a safe space in their workplace to talk about their personal problems and experiences.