Why you need to be an emotional manager


You can only choose one of these statements. Which do you agree with?

  1. Managers should pick up on when employees are not feeling great and offer support without being asked.

  2. Employees should be expected to say when they don’t feel great and seek help.


Be an emotional manager so your employees ask for support

This week one employee who I’ve worked with for years asked for support. Another employee waited until I offered the support. Interestingly, both scenarios revolved around a similar problem outside of work.

So why did these conversations start in different ways? One began with an employee seeking help, while in the other case help had to be offered.

I used to fear, as a manager, that I would be too busy to pick up on the subtle cues that employees may be struggling. I felt it was my responsibility to always be the one to ask. That becomes a lot of pressure to deal with, on top of everything else that’s going on at work.

However, over time, without even realising it - my approach changed. I found being a more emotional manager worked better. 

Be an emotional manager to motivate your team

Being emotional is often seen as a bad thing, especially in macho environments. Has anyone ever told you something along the lines of “stop crying and act like a man”!

Terrible, I know. That statement has such a bad impact on everyone, especially children. I refuse to ever tell it to mine (I have both boys and girls). Thinking about it, the stigma surrounding being an emotional manager must have affected me in my early days as a manager at Experian.

I used to manage my direct reports in a very transactional, un-emotional way. Where are you on this task? Have you completed this objective? What’s the sales number? You get the idea. This approach means you get results, but ultimately you miss the opportunity to connect with someone on an emotional level.

Over time, most of my catch ups with my team are more emotional in tone; how are you feeling, what’s going well for you, what do you need to make your experience of work better? As a manager, I know I don’t always have the answer to the responses that come with these kinds of questions, but simply asking and listening is the most important part as it allows me to really understand my team.

This results in emotional and sometimes challenging conversations. However, the rewards are massively beneficial for me and the people I work with. Everyone's wellbeing is better off, and the business is better off too. 

So which statement should you choose?

It's a trick question. You need to choose both. Ask and tell. It takes time to build the confidence for people to ask for help, so in these cases you need to ask more.

Though over time, I hope the people I work with don’t expect me to read their mind.Instead, I'd like them to have the courage to connect emotionally and tell me what's going on in order to make work - and maybe even life - better!

By Eamon Tuhami, CEO and Founder at Motivii

Blog postsAlan Wanders