Can Emotional Intelligence Resolve Common Employee Challenges?

March 13, 2017
Author: Jeremy Richter

The office is a physical space where dedicated employees arrive on time each day and perform to the best of their abilities to help the organization meet its goals and mission. Unfortunately, this ideal rarely aligns with reality. Per a recent Gallup poll, 67% of the workforce is not engaged. Of which, 16% are reported to be actively disengaged, are miserable, and their actions seem to only counter the efforts of those trying to make a difference. The remaining 51% seemingly take up space waiting for each day to end and for each paycheck to arrive.2

There are many opinions on how to improve employee engagement, but Emotional Intelligence is often overlooked in favor of rewards, recognition, or ping-pong tables in the break room. Recent research suggests that the most significant factor contributing to employee engagement is how they feel about their leadership. Further research indicates that leaders with high Emotional Intelligence are more likely have engaged employees. Given this finding, it is worth the time to discuss this topic more thoroughly to find an effective means of increasing worker’s engagement.

Emotional Intelligence Matters

Emotional Intelligence is “the ability to recognize and regulate emotions in ourselves and in others.”4 Within the last week, there was news of an instance where a lack of Emotional Intelligence had been witnessed. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had an incident where he yelled at an Uber driver in a disrespectful manner. In the moment, Travis lacked emotional self-regulation, a key emotional intelligence competency, and his inability to manage his anger impacted his ability to communicate effectively with the complaining driver. Following this altercation, Kalanick penned a letter to Uber staff and included, “It’s clear this video is a reflection of me- and the criticism we’ve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and need to grow up.”5 The change he is referring to, must include a focus on developing Emotional Intelligence. Had he operated with self-awareness and had developed self-regulation skills it’s likely he would have been able to resist the urge to yell during the Uber ride, and this news story wouldn’t exist.

Business today is different than in the past. Millennials, who are more motivated by meaning than money, are increasingly making up larger percentages of the workforce. Also, the employees, along with their leadership, are increasingly likely to have one or more social media accounts which provide multiple avenues to share their unhappiness as they experience poor working environments.3 In fact, Glassdoor has become somewhat of a Yelp for employers as potential employees will review companies to see what the culture is like from the perspectives of past and current employees. Additionally, as with Uber’s CEO, management is under scrutiny not only from investors, but casual citizens who can report anything negative in nature. It is important to take action to grasp control of oneself and environment to prevent public relations issues and potential distrust or disgruntlement with employees.

Trying to Increase Emotional Intelligence

Recently, we were working with a small business owner who was quite competent within the technical aspects of his company but had lost potential business due to a lack of Emotional Intelligence. He became annoyed at a customer for asking questions on the process and through email became extremely short and pointed in his responses. The key for this owner, was reflecting on the interactions and realizing that the reason he has a business is that others do not have the technical knowledge or capabilities that he did. Working with this owner involved a multi-faceted approach including a strategy for the owner to answer these following questions before engaging with a potential customer: How does the customers’ knowledge differ from mine? How will I effectively communicate to answer all questions and concerns for the customer? What will I do to regulate my emotions if the meeting is not enjoyable? Answering these questions enabled the owner to “remove” the technical hat, and place a “customer relations” hat on which changed his mindset to being more open to the customer. Upon the completion of each meeting, the owner would reflect with some guidance on how they did and what could be improved upon.

Emotional Intelligence is a complex topic which can be further understood through an interpersonal and intrapersonal framework or with the competencies of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.1 Covering each area in depth and providing strategies for development is far beyond the scope of this single blog. The focus here will be to discuss a few techniques geared towards increasing the intrapersonal ability, meaning to look within oneself to increase self-awareness.

Once a year, employees and managers engage in a performance review process. Some companies may call it the: “annual check in”, “annual review”, “360 feedback” and so forth. Regardless of the name, this device can be quite effective from an intrapersonal perspective. From leadership on down, each person being reviewed should look through the report to see if the provided feedback from others matches their own perceptions. Any discrepancy represents an opportunity to identify instances where regulating emotions could lead to a more desired outcome. This may be particularly pertinent with items such as leadership, initiative, teamwork, and other factors that enable concrete goals to be met.

During the performance review process, it is beneficial to identify situations where awareness and regulating emotions may become the most difficult. A strategy to help this process is to increase accountability by telling a close coworker or supervisor your goals regarding Emotional Intelligence. The act of telling someone else will help make you more self-aware and in tune with your emotions and as well as your ability to regulate them. When this becomes a challenge, you have the trusted person to help encourage you and keep you accountable to your goal.

As with most things worth having, growth in Emotional Intelligence will take time and effort. Some instances may be uncomfortable as others point out a lack of awareness; however, it is important to remember that it is through these uncomfortable moments that growth and progress occurs. Embracing the journey with others will lead to greater cohesion and subtle benefits daily, which will lead to clear benefits in the long term of a more enjoyable and productive work environment.

For those looking for more information on Emotional Intelligence feel free to reach out to HigherEchelon.

RESOURCES

  1. “Emotional Intelligence” Daniel Goleman, 2005
  2. Gallup Poll: Jim CLifton, February 17, 2017
  3. Social Media: Burson-Marsteller
  4. “The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace: How to Select For, Measure, and Improve Emotional Intelligence in Individuals, Groups, and Organizations” Daneil Goleman 2001
  5. Uber: available Tech Crunch, Sarah Buhr, February 28, 2017