Empathy and Managerial Effectiveness across Cultures: A Comparative Study on the Link between Hotel Managers’ Levels of Empathy and Their Managerial Effectiveness in the United Kingdom versus Denmark

Inna Timofejeva

Student thesis: Master thesis


The following thesis has been conducted in order to explore the concept of emotional intelligence (EQ) in business settings across cultures. The importance of emotional intelligence apart from general cognitive abilities has been discussed in the business context for decades and its importance for effective management of people has been stressed out by numerous previous studies. A review of past research on emotional intelligence across different cultures (Shipper et al) emphasizes empathy as one of the most important emotional intelligence skills that ensures effective management. However, research on the link between the two has been scarce (Goleman, 1998). Therefore, the central concept of this study is the importance of managers’ levels of empathy for their managerial effectiveness (as perceived by their respective subordinates) with a special focus on how it manifests itself in a feminine culture as opposed to a masculine culture. The main theoretical point of departure of this study is Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, and the Masculinity/Femininity dimension in particular (Hofstede, 2001). Masculinity is defined by the extent to which a country embraces masculine cultural characteristics, such as earnings and achievement. In countries that rank high on the Masculinity dimension, people tend to emphasize the importance of their jobs and see certain professions as characteristics of gender. On the contrary, in feminine cultures, people tend to value life outside work to a greater extent and emphasize the importance of quality of life. The UK and Denmark were chosen as case countries for this comparative study. The two countries were found suitable for the study as they provide a significant contrast in terms of their scores in the Masculinity/Femininity dimension, with the UK having a score of 66 and Denmark scoring only 16. Due to the limited scope of the study, managers and their respective subordinates employed in 4-star and 5-star hotels in the UK and Denmark, respectively, were chosen for the purpose of this study. In order to measure the empathy levels among hotel managers in the UK and Denmark, respectively, a ready-made questionnaire for measuring emotional empathy “The Questionnaire for Measuring the Empathic Tendency” was used (Mehrabian & Epstein, 1972). Furthermore, an additional questionnaire was designed to measure the responding managers’ managerial effectiveness as perceived by their respective subordinates in terms of their work-related attitudes, including job satisfaction, motivation and loyalty. The two questionnaires were distributed to the case hotels electronically and were the main source of the quantitative data used in this study. Additional qualitative data was collected by means of semi-structured interviews with the subordinates in the Danish sample of respondents. An analysis of the collected data resulted in findings that partially confirm previous theories about empathy, but also constitute objections to these. Moreover, the collected data indicates significantly lower levels of empathy among the UK managers than among the Danish ones. However, despite this fact and despite the original assumptions, work-related attitudes among the UK subordinates were more positive than those in Denmark. In most cases, the negative work attitudes among the Danish respondents were found to have a direct link to the respective managers’ approach to their employees, which lead to the conclusion that empathy levels may not have the same effect in a highly masculine culture as in a highly feminine culture.

EducationsMSc in International Business, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2014
Number of pages133