Emotional Intelligence at work – do we need it?
Psychologies magazine carried two articles recently, one about ‘Why it pays to be tough at work’, the other about making your relationship work. The first article expressed the view that being too empathic at work did not help you succeed in your career or business. The second article pursued the idea that the secret of a good sex life lay in using your emotional intelligence.
Which way forward then? Do we need to use our emotional intelligence, and what is it?
Emotional Intelligence first came to prominence in the mid 1990’s although discussion of other types of intelligence had been around for some time before this. In his book ‘Emotional Intelligence – Why it can matter more than IQ’, Daniel Goleman expounded the idea that non-cognitive skills were as important as IQ intelligence for succeeding in the workplace. There is still a buoyant discussion in the field of EI but to keep things simple here are some of the better known models:
1. The Mayer-Salovey Ability Model – where EI is the ability to understand and regulate our own emotions and those of others, and to assess and manage this understanding so as to guide the way we think and act.
2. Goleman’s Emotional Competencies Model – personal and social competencies including self-awareness, self-management, adaptability, social awareness, empathy, social skills, and communication among others.
3. The Trait Model – which is about our own perceptions of our emotional abilities.
So do we need to be emotionally intelligent, and if so when? Have a look at these contrasting opinions…
Bill Amelio, the CEO of Lenovo said that managers ought to allow more silences in cross-cultural meetings to enable proper translation and understanding of what is said.
A study conducted at the University of Bedfordshire indicated that “trainee social workers who were more emotionally intelligent and socially competent were more resilient, and this seemed to protect them from the high levels of psychological distress that are endemic in the job.”
John Moulton said in an interview that one of his best features was “..insensitivity – it lets you sleep when others can’t”. John made millions as a venture capitalist despite major fall outs with colleagues along the way.
“Men still dominate in every boardroom. The reality is that, at senior levels in highly competitive organisations, life is tough, demanding and often mercenary. You need to be ruthless to survive.” Katie Hopkins, former contestant on The Apprentice.
Nobody would argue that having good communication skills and being able to understand and process someone else’s viewpoint are not essentials of good management. But the debate continues. Here are some thoughts to take with you.
1. Use your powers of observation and awareness to notice how your colleagues interact and note the effective behaviours – these are the ones you can model.
2. If something upsets you at work, temper your reaction until you have time to moderate your response. Avoid acting rashly or being over-emotional – don’t fire off a first draft of a ranting email in response to something that riles you; wait a bit, read it again and then consider the message you really want to put across.
3. Don’t over-analyse, either yourself of others. Concentrate on what you do well and make that your focus.
4. Acknowledge your own and others’ achievements fairly, without being excessive or overly familiar.
5. Steer a neat path between being ‘nice-as-pie’ and the ‘dragon’. Address people by name, smile and listen properly as appropriate.
6. Handle challenges head-on even if you are afraid. Running for cover won’t make them go away.
7. Be yourself and feel good about it.