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Manager empathy and employee innovative behavior: The mediating role of guanxi

Taotao Zhang (Xi’an University of Technology), Jing Zhang (Shaanxi Youth Vocational College), Tao Zhang (Gansu University of Political Science and Law), 2023, 51(7), e12549


Although empathy is understood as a leadership trait, recognition of its worth in the operation of organizations is lacking. Our aim in this study was to examine the relationship between manager empathy and employee innovative behavior by introducing the mediating role of guanxi. Amos and SPSS were used to test the proposed model comprising data obtained from 275 employees and 112 of their managers in 10 Chinese companies. Results of structural equation modeling revealed that manager empathy was positively related to employee innovative behavior; moreover, guanxi played a partial mediating role in this relationship. In the context of guanxi culture in China, our findings provide new insights into how employee innovative behavior can be affected by manager empathy, and suggest that managers should improve their empathy skill and build positive guanxi with employees to enhance employees’ innovative behavior.