North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

August 9, 2011

Emotional intelligence has effect on workplace

Business AdVISE

By Teresa Vise
North Jefferson News

COMMENTARY — The study of emotional intelligence is often dated to the early 1990s, when scientific articles suggested that there existed an unrecognized but important human mental ability to reason about emotions and to use emotions to enhance thought. The basics of Emotional Intelligence, or EI, include knowing your feelings and using them to make life decisions with which you can live. In business, emotional intelligence can work to impart a strategic advantage when times get tense or tough.  

Being able to manage your emotional life without begin hijacked by it or allowing yourself  to become paralyzed by depression or worry, or worse, swept away by anger, is key in today’s volatile and changing workplace.  

Cultivating your EI can provide the support that you need in the face of setbacks, and a positive channeling of your impulses can be critical to keep you on target and on track as you pursue your goals.  

An emotionally intelligent person has empathy, not sympathy, for the other person without them having to tell you exactly what they are feeling or going through.  In today’s work place this skill is critical in light of privacy laws, and issues of work place harassment. A skillful handling of emotion and feelings in the workplace is critical for the diverse personalities and skills that allow all to move in the same goal direction in some form of harmony. Emotional Intelligence allows the unspoken pulse of a group to work to get things done, sometimes the impossible, given all of the differing ideas, skills and agendas that sometimes come together.

There are multiple and daily examples of challenges in the work place that command high emotional intelligence.

Consider the dynamics of a colleague who steals your idea and discusses it publicly as if it were his own, the challenge of dealing with a difficult customer, the impact of a poor work review, someone who tells a racist joke or a sexually explicit joke. How about observing road rage, or riding with someone who is a driving aggressively? Ever been in a shouting match or a turf battle at work? Or sometimes we need to dig deep and sharpen our emotional intelligence as we work to inspire our team, nudge an indecisive or apathetic leader, or even work to inspire our own self.  

Generally speaking, emotional intelligence improves an individual's social effectiveness. The higher the emotional intelligence, the better the social relations. Emotional Intelligence is described as a combination of personal competence and social competence.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, previous Chairman of GE Jack Welch stated, “A leader’s intelligence has to have a strong emotional component. He has to have high levels of self-awareness, maturity and self-control. He or she must be able to withstand the heat, handle setbacks and when those lucky moments arise, enjoy success with equal parts of joy and humility. No doubt emotional intelligence is more rare than book smarts, but my experience says it is actually more important in the making of a leader. You just can't ignore it.”

The high EI individual can better perceive emotions, use them in thought, understand their meanings, and manage emotions, than others. Solving emotional problems likely requires less cognitive effort for this individual. The person also tends to be somewhat higher in verbal, social, and other intelligences, particularly in understanding emotions. The individual tends to be more open and agreeable than others. The high EI person is drawn to occupations involving social interactions such as teaching and counseling more so than to occupations involving clerical or administrative tasks.

According to research on the topic, the high EI individual, relative to others, is less apt to engage in problem behaviors, and avoids self-destructive, negative behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking, drug abuse, or violent episodes with others. The high EI person is more likely to have possessions of sentimental attachment around the home and to have more positive social interactions.  Such individuals may also be more adept at describing motivational goals, aims, and missions.

Got EI? Psychologists Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves designed a test that assesses the four pillars of EI: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. “Emotional Intelligence Appraisal” was published in 2003, and more than 500,000 people have taken the assessment so far… even the Chinese.  Interestingly, the research showed that when data matched Chinese executives to American executives, the Chinese outscored the American on the two key EI measures of self-management and relationship management. In a nutshell, this very compelling research suggests when it comes to the pursuit of economic success these two less developed elements of EI leave American Executives lacking in some of the discipline needed to compete best in a global marketplace.

Getting back on track will require our good, old fashioned “making business personal.”  The tried and true “management by walking around” technique that helped build our industry and fuel our factory floor.