top of page
  • Writer's pictureEva-Maria Zoll

Your HR person is not your empathy tool

Dear CEOs, founders, and leaders of companies,

do you care about the success of your company? Do you care about growth and long-term success? If you answer both of these questions with yes, I assume, that means that you also care about the humans working together with you to be successful. Right?

Did you know that "the word "culture" derives from a French term, which in turn derives from the Latin "colere," which means to tend to the earth and grow, or cultivation and nurture? It shares its etymology with a number of other words related to actively fostering growth."*

But do you really care? Or do you secretly try to outsource the “caring” parts to other people in your company? Do you believe, as the CEO or member of the C-suite, you have the right to be busy with a million other things, but building a good company culture isn’t one of them? No matter the eagerness and willingness of people filling HR/People or Culture roles, it doesn't help when the leadership doesn't see their part in shaping and designing culture.

The stories we hear from organizations, baffle me every time again. Stories where leaders try to bypass or delegate their responsibility of building a good culture.

I want to share three points, which I believe are worth remembering. All of them coming from real-life stories

1. Your HR person is not your empathy tool!

Building culture can’t be delegated to the HR/people department. Your behavior, the way you speak and treat people, is one of the most influential elements in the creation of culture. HR can not be solely responsible for „fixing“ and taking care of your company culture. It can for sure support you though.

Your more empathic, often female co-founder/co-lead, is not your empathy tool either. It’s not her job to pick up the pieces you leave every time you are stomping over people with unemphatic behavior and violent language.

2. I’m the CEO. I have too many other things on the table, so I can’t take care of culture, but maybe our Happiness Manager can do it”. This statement itself shapes a culture itself. It shapes a culture that doesn’t value culture/ care. And if you are a CEO who would say this, please understand, that the job and responsibility you give to your Happiness Manager here, is basically impossible to fulfill.

3. A leadership position is all about people, being in a leadership position and saying „I am not a peoples' person“ doesn’t give you permission to emotionally abuse your team with underdeveloped emotional skills and emotional intelligence. So in case you are not a peoples' person, please reconsider stepping into a leadership role. At the minimum, be humble about it. Get yourself enrolled in leadership training, book a coach and start to build strong muscles in the field of emotional intelligence, non-violent behavior, and language. Get to know your emotional landscape, in order to understand and navigate the emotional landscapes of your colleagues, in order to build strong relationships based on trust.


What we need!

What our world needs these days the most are leaders who understand the potential of leading with empathy and values instead of ego and control.

Culture starts with you. Leaders who lead with values, no matter if we are in crisis mode or celebrating success. Leaders who actively shape culture and understand that the way they feel, speak and behave, models behavior for everyone else in the team. You as the founder/CEO or lead cannot take yourself out of the equation of creating and shaping culture. The person with the highest concentration of power naturally shapes culture the most. So instead of thinking that culture has to be shaped by other people but you, how about reframing the C in your title to culture, e.g. Culture Executive Officer.


bottom of page