UAE jobs: 5 ways bosses can support employees during storms, challenging situations

Sometimes, leaders can be so far removed from daily operations that they forget they are managing humans, not robots

By Eleni Anastasova

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KT Photo: Shihab
KT Photo: Shihab

Published: Sat 4 May 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 May 2024, 10:23 PM

Question: How can managers and company leaders show employees that they care about them, especially during challenging situations like what many residents experienced during the UAE's heaviest rainfall?

Answer: In today’s turbulent times, leaders are expected to have not only traditional strengths — such as good communication and financial acumen — but also the emotional intelligence to create an empathetic organisational culture.


According to a 2021 Catalyst study, an estimated 61 per cent of workers with highly empathic senior leaders report being often or always innovative at work, compared to only 13 per cent who have less empathic senior leaders. Empathy has also been proven to boost work engagement, with 76 per cent of professionals with highly empathic leadership reporting feeling often or always engaged, compared to only 32 per cent of those with leaders who lack empathy.

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Recent weather events in the UAE have highlighted that empathy is not always commonplace when dealing with challenging situations. A number of people affected by the recent storms in the UAE were left without electricity and running water, and some families were forced to leave their homes as they were not habitable. Sadly, some people were mandated to travel into the workplace regardless of their circumstances.

With intense competition for talent, any failure to support staff adequately is likely to increase discontent among the workforce. It isn’t enough to simply reward people for their work; leaders should also take into account what a good organisational culture looks like and how can they best manage people effectively — and with empathy.

So, how do you effectively demonstrate this critical leadership skill of empathy? Here are a few things you can do to get started:

1. Be an active listener

A core competency of empathetic leadership is the ability to listen actively, which allows employees to express their perspectives and feelings in a safe environment. This creates psychological safety and a culture of mutual trust. It is crucial to follow up and act on the feedback with actions that reflect what has been shared.

2. Be compassionate towards personal distress

The best way to fully understand your team members is to imagine yourself in their shoes. Sometimes, leaders can be so far removed from daily operations that they forget they are managing humans, not robots. Before making a decision that could potentially negatively impact (or be perceived to have negative impact) your team, think about their perspective and ask yourself:

  • How can I best support my team through this?
  • What other options could I explore?
  • What support would I need if I was in this situation?

It is crucial to not make any assumptions regarding the situation or underplay the emotional reactions of your team.

3. Promote work-life balance

The incoming generation of employees, particularly Gen Z, will likely constitute the largest share of the workforce by 2030. When asked what they value in the workplace, the common denomination is wellbeing, plus a balanced lifestyle. Through your example and in your communication, make it clear to your employees that you value and encourage their holistic wellbeing. Regularly check in with your employees and equip them with the tools for success.

4. Communicate with empathy

Be empathetic on each occasion. Sometimes, your employees just need that verbal reassurance to pick them up during challenging times. Saying things like "I understand how challenging that can be. Let me know how I can support you" can make all the difference.

Seeing you demonstrate empathy will also encourage your team to be more empathetic.

5. Take appropriate action

Think holistically about steps you can take to actively support your team members at an individual level. This could play out in various ways:

  • Offer emotional, flexible, psychological support
  • Provide training, alternatives, options and work closely with your teams
  • Buddy up with internal peer mentors
  • Adjust work schedules, patterns or locations
  • Reshuffle responsibilities to be more accommodating
  • Maintain an open-door policy

Eleni Anastasova is the Communities and Market Operations Manager at CIPD, a professional entity for HR and people development. She is responsible for building strong communities and shaping the company’s external outreach in the Mena region. She works closely with senior people professionals and leading organisations to share the good work they do.

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