Empathy And The Engineering Manager

What does it mean to be empathetic in engineering?

Empathy And The Engineering Manager
Photo by Josh Calabrese / Unsplash

I’m no expert, nor am I a shining example of a software engineering manager. I haven’t studied psychology, sociology, or business management. I’m an autodidact, which means I learn things through experience, experimentation (failure or otherwise), reading, and observation. Despite this, I'm diving into key traits an engineering manager possesses and what those look like in practice. These come from my experiences as an EM, under management, and what I’ve learned from others.

Empathy. The first key trait that successful managers exhibit is empathy. Without the empathetic trait, egocentrism can take its place. Egotistical managers will not only harm product development but will stunt the growth of others around them, proving to be a toxic, leeching element in the growth of engineering as a whole.

Empathic leaders are an extremely powerful force within any organization, and here’s why:

🤔 Reasoning
Empathetic leaders can place themselves in anyone’s shoes and reason about viewpoints that aren’t their own. Viewpoints from colleagues, managers and customers can help shape their worldview and remove bias. As a result of this, an empathetic leader will be able to reason more effectively in an organization, curbing their ego and amplifying the voices of others. They help build and drive great products and great teams.

📈 Growth
Empathetic leaders can understand the feelings of others, including an individual’s need for self-growth and improvement. They also can understand that their position as an Engineering Manager allows them to act as a catalyst for personal growth, which drives their passion to help others succeed. An empathetic leader’s goals will closely align with their direct reports, meaning that their team, in essence, will grow and succeed as a whole.

👂 Communication
People don’t want to be left in the dark. Empathetic leaders know this and proactively open channels of communication to prevent siloing, burnout, & surprises. With proactive channels, empathetic leaders know the heartbeat of their team without necessarily asking for it.

These are just a few benefits that empathetic leaders possess, but there are other ways that empathy lends itself to a great management culture. If you know of other ways that empathy has inspired great culture in your organization, drop them in the thread!