The work culture has undergone a radical revolution since the 1980s.
The managerial domination of the corporate hierarchy gave way to a culture where leadership is not defined by domination.
Rather, it is more about convincing people to work towards a common goal as a team.
As Richard Fuld, the former CEO of Lehman Brothers recollects in one of the interviews “Bobby Lehman, who assumed the leadership role of the family-owned business in 1925, was masterful at pitting employees against each other.”
As a result, Lehman staff rarely shared ideas or helped built relationships that might help benefit the firm as a whole.
Thus, the failure to work as a team lead to the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 1984.
This clearly suggests the destructive effects of managerial domination or arrogant bosses at the workplace.
As per research, emotional intelligence has emerged as a part of the effective revolution in organization and work psychology.
Such a transition in the emotional landscape has been responsible for job satisfaction as well as job performance at the workplace.
People with high emotional intelligence experience high job satisfaction. This is because such individuals have the capability to understand their own emotional states as well as the emotional states of their colleagues.
Thus, they have the ability to repair the negative moods, regulate emotions, bear the workplace stress, and increase job satisfaction.
In this article, we will try to understand how emotional intelligence at work would help employees tackle negative feedback, network effectively, and value workplace diversity.
Emotional Intelligence at Work
As defined by Salovey and Mayor “emotional intelligence refers to a set of skills for perceiving, accessing, and generating emotions in order to assist thought, understand emotions and emotional knowledge and regulate emotions in a considered way that will promote emotional and intellectual growth.”
Therefore, people who have high emotional intelligence have the capability to understand their own moods and are well equipped to mend their negative emotions.
Such individuals are not only capable of regulating their own moods but also have the skill to empathize with other people at the workplace.
These emotional intelligence skills help them to build better interpersonal relationships, social networks and sustain a positive mood at the workplace.
As Daniel Goleman puts it, “the benefits at the workplace of being skilled in basic emotional competencies include:
- being attuned with the feelings of your colleagues
- having the capability to handle disagreements in such a manner that they do not intensify
- having the ability to get fully engaged in work”
So, before discussing how emotional intelligence can benefit team members at the workplace let’s first look at an anecdote in his book ‘Emotional Intelligence’ that displays the extreme costs that an organization might have to bear due to lack of EI skills.
1978 Portland Plane Crash
The story goes back to the year 1978 where an airline pilot Melburn McBroom lead to a plane crash that was approaching Portland, Oregon.
If one delves into the details of the incident, he would be certainly terrified to know how the effects of the strict hierarchy can lead to mishaps like these.
Melbourne McBroom was quite domineering and arrogant as a boss. His behavior was so threatening for the copilots that they were scared of saying anything to him.
As the plane approached Portland, McBroom observed a problem with the landing gear. As a result, he kept on circling the plane at a very high altitude without realizing that the plane was running out of fuel steadily.
However, his copilots observed this but could not say anything to McBroom as they were quite fearful to confront his arrogance.
This incident led to the plane crashing and killing 10 people.
Lessons Learnt From this Incident
Since this incident, pilots are trained for social intelligence skills such as teamwork, cooperation, listening to others, having open lines of communication, besides giving them technical expertise.
So, it is clear from the above incident that an organization lacking leaders who are emotionally intelligent would have to bear consequences ranging from modest effects like decreased productivity, missed deadlines, to something very intense such as bad decision making and mishaps.
Now, let’s try to understand how organizations can achieve emotional intelligence at work.
How to Achieve Emotional Intelligence at Work?
Do you know what’s the difference between a good leader and the best leader?
Well, as per Daniel Goleman, it is the emotional intelligence or the Emotional Quotient (EQ) that sets apart which managers, professionals, doctors, scientists will be the best leaders.
Goleman explains that there are three abilities that distinguish the best leaders from the average:
- Self Awareness – an ability that lets a person know his strengths and weaknesses which further help in strengthening his inner self
- Self Management – a capability that helps people in handling their feelings in an appropriate way and lead themselves effectively
- Empathy – a capability that allows a person to understand the feelings and emotions of other people as well as their needs and wants
He further elucidates that emotional intelligence in terms of understanding what your customers or employees want is the most crucial aspect of a great leader.
In the case of employees, how a leader makes them feel within an organization plays a very important role in the level of motivation, commitment, and bringing the best out of the employees.
But, that is possible only if the leader understands his strengths and weaknesses and has the capacity to regulate his emotions.
This is because if a leader lacks EI abilities such as self-awareness, self-management, and empathy, he will be poor at handling the emotions of other people.
Such a person will always be battling with feelings of distress and would lack the capability to bounce back from the setbacks in life.
To understand how important emotional intelligence is in the workplace, we will discuss the following three areas:
- Constructive Vs Ineffective Feedback
- Developing a culture of diversity and
- Working on group IQ
Constructive Vs Ineffective Feedback
The most important aspect of corporate culture is the feedback that a manager or leader gives to his subordinates.
Feedback is nothing but the information given by a leader to a subordinate to let him know his performance on the job.
This feedback brings to the forefront areas where an employee performs well as well as the areas where he needs to improvise.
Therefore, it is very important for higher-level managers to give feedback to their subordinates as it would guide them on how they need to perform on the job.
This is because lack of feedback would keep people in the dark and they would have no clue how they are placed with their colleagues as well as senior managers with regards to their work, what is expected of them, and what are the challenges that they are facing within the organization.
Therefore, the most important job that forms part of a manager’s role is how to voice a grievance to an employee effectively.
Let’s consider an example to understand the importance of effective feedback.
Example of Ineffective Feedback
Ahana joined the firm a month back and would remain a temporary employee for the first six months of her job.
During these six months, she would be provided with training regarding the financial worksheets that she has to work on by her manager Natalie.
Natalie has been working with the firm for the past ten years and now holds the managerial position in her department.
It’s been more than fifteen days that she has been training Ahana and giving her the tips and tricks on how to work on the worksheets.
After a month, Ahana is asked to work on the financial worksheets herself for her clients.
One day Natalie gave a complex financial worksheet to Ahana in order to test her potentialities.
Ahana tried her level best to work on the same and finally was able to complete the work by following a methodology that was different from the one taught by Natalie.
When Ahana presented the financial worksheet to Natalie and explained the methodology she used to work on it, Natalie got annoyed and said :
“What was the entire point of providing you with the training when you had to apply your own methods to work on these financial worksheets.
There is no chance that I will accept this methodology and accept the underlying reasons that you have given in order to troubleshoot the worksheet.”
Ahana felt utterly embarrassed and she was just silent and listening to her manager’s words in a sad way.
Her colleagues made hostile remarks about the manager in order to support Ahana.
For the next two weeks, she was depressed, and demotivated to work.
Like Natalie in the example above, many managers do not have the art of raising a grievance, criticism or giving feedback to the employees.
They do not understand that there is a heavy cost attached to giving ineffective feedback to the employees.
The employees feel emotionally attacked, become ineffective, are less satisfied with their job, and lose out on productivity.
Therefore, how managers give feedback to the employees determines the employee’s level of job satisfaction and their relationship with colleagues as well as top managers.
So, where do the managers go wrong while raising a grievance to the employees?
The following section explains the mistakes committed by the managers while giving feedback to their subordinates.
Mistakes Managers Commit to Give Feedback
Personal Attacks over Complaints
Just the way we discussed the fault lines in a failing marriage in our previous article on Failing Marriage Signs and How to Reverse Them, there are certain fault lines taking similar forms in the corporate world too.
Managers personally attack their subordinates instead of raising a complaint on which the subordinates can work.
In other words, rather than complaining about the wrong actions of the employees, the manager questions the character of the employees.
These personal attacks are accompanied by disgust and mockery that makes the employees defensive.
That is to say, the employees respond to such criticisms in a reactive manner and as a result, are demotivated to take on work responsibility.
Finally, they avoid any sort of conversation with such managers and resist passively as if they have not been treated well.
Lack of Empathy
Managers lacking the art of giving constructive feedback are quite harsh and make use of angry tone while criticizing the employees.
The managers involved in such angry attacks neither give a chance to the employees to respond nor do they give any suggestions on how employees can do things in a better way.
That is to say, such managers lack the ability to regulate their own emotions as well as understand the emotions of their employees.
Such a lack of empathy on the part of the managers makes the employees feel that their emotions have been ignored and thus compels them to act in a defensive manner.
Lack of empathy in managers while giving negative feedback makes the employees feel angry and helpless.
Thus, such a feeling of helplessness has a great impact on an employee’s level of motivation, enthusiasm, and confidence to carry on the work.
Inviting Employee Disengagement
Managers having poor EI at work get emotionally hijacked and start making personal attacks on employees while giving them negative feedback.
Such personal attacks make employees defensive and as a result, the employees evade responsibility, avoid conversations with the manager who blew up, and start making excuses while taking responsibility.
Well, it is just not restricted to this. The employees who were attacked personally by their intimidating managers either think that they are an innocent victim or they were not fairly treated and have the right to fight against the manager.
Besides this, they have negative thoughts about the angry manager and such thoughts keep brewing. Then a stage comes when the employee’s mind gets flooded with such negative thoughts.
This impacts the employee’s behavior which further annoys or provokes the manager thus giving way to the beginning of a vicious process.
Unfortunately, the end of this process is either the employee getting fired by the manager or employee himself quitting the job.
As per a study, ineffective criticism was the topmost reason for disputes on the job over lack of trust, disputes for power and pay, and personality clash.
Some managers are quite proactive while criticizing their employees when they commit a mistake at work.
However, when it comes to appreciating or praising the employees for good performance, they are quite laid back and often ignore praising their employees.
This makes the employees feel that they are only given feedback when they make mistakes.
Such a lack of appreciation makes the employees demotivated and dissatisfied with their job.
Few managers make delays in giving feedback to their subordinates.
When managers fail to convey their feelings promptly for employees’ performance on a piece of work, it frustrates the managers.
This tendency to make a delay in giving feedback to employees slowly builds irritation inside the manager’s mind and a day comes when he blows up.
Such managers fail to understand that if they would have raised criticism for employee’s bad performance quite early, the employee would have been in a state to make corrections.
However, it is often observed that managers typically criticize employees when things get out of control and it gets quite challenging for them to contain their emotions.
This is the time when they criticize employees in the worst possible way.
That is, being sarcastic, blowing up with too many grievances that they did not raise earlier, and in extreme cases giving threats to employees.
Such personal attacks backfire as employees become angry and demotivated.
So, considering the list of mistakes that managers or leaders make while criticizing employees for a mistake committed by them, the next question arises that what is the correct way of giving feedback.
How to Give an Effective Feedback?
Remember how Natalie reacted to Ahana when she presented her financial worksheet and asked for her feedback in the example above?
Natalie was quite rude in giving feedback to Ahana. So how should have Natalie given the feedback to Ahana in such a situation?
“Ahana, the main challenge in implementing this new methodology is that we haven’t used it before and it would require time for us to understand the pros and cons of the methodology. I would like you to keep on working on this, but for now, we need to use the previous tried and tested method as we have to send this deliverable ungently to the client. “
Feedback given in such a manner has a completely different impact on the employee relative to the destructive criticism.
The employee becomes hopeful to work on things in a better way and also lets the senior manager know about his plan of working on the same.
So, how should a manager give effective feedback?
Do Not Attack Employees Personally
The most important aspect of effective feedback is that it should focus on the deed of the person for the job done in a poor way rather than questioning his character.
Challenging someone’s character by proclaiming that he is incompetent or has acted stupidly makes the manager miss the context of the suggestions that he wants to give to the employee for the underlying work.
Rather, such a harsh criticism assassinates the character of the employee in such an intense manner that he responds defensively.
That is, the employee is no longer receptive to the manager’s suggestion with regards to how an employee can improve or do things in a better way.
It is important to note here that ineffective feedback impacts the level of motivation of people also in a great way.
Managers or leaders need to understand that their destructive criticism would make their subordinates feel unmotivated.
And if such criticisms are given repetitively, it makes the subordinates believe that there is a deficit in their potentiality which cannot be changed or reversed.
When they start thinking in such a manner, they eventually lose hope and do not take further initiative to try things out.
So managers need to keep in mind that they should give negative feedback in such a manner that makes employees or subordinates believe that their failures or mistakes are due to the circumstances and not because of an unchangeable deficit in their potentialities.
Such a belief makes the subordinates optimistic as they feel that the criticisms given by their managers would make them do things in a better way.
Be Specific While Giving a Feedback
It is very important for the leaders or managers to clearly state the problem or the challenge while giving feedback to the employees or subordinates.
In other words, managers need to be very specific about what things need to be changed and give suggestions as to how employees can work on the job poorly done.
Just bringing up the issue that needs to be changed and talking about the job done unwell without the subordinate knowing about the specifics would only demoralize them.
Giving vague feedback without specifications is just as giving vague praise for the job done well.
Such feedback has no effect at all and gives no opportunity to subordinates to learn.
Provide Suggestions for Solutions
Simply explaining the problem would not do much in making feedback effective.
If managers need to give useful feedback they need to understand that besides defining the problem clearly, they also need to provide suggestions regarding the ways in which employees can solve the problems.
A criticism given without offering solutions would make the employees feel frustrated, demotivated, and demoralized.
It is important to note that offering solutions while giving feedback makes the employees ponder over the possibilities that they did not realize in the first place.
Further, such suggestions make the employees aware of the challenges that need to be focused on.
Feedback Must be Given Face to Face and in Private
It is important to note that criticism turns out to be effective when given face to face and in private.
Many managers are not comfortable in giving criticism or appreciating their employees.
As a result, they give feedback whether positive or negative in writing.
But such feedback is quite ineffective as it is not personalized in nature.
Further, such feedback also does not give an opportunity to the recipient to respond or ask for clarification.
Whereas feedback given face to face provides an opportunity for the recipient to understand the challenges and also strengthens the relationship between the manager and subordinate.
Further, negative feedback given in private makes the employee focus on the context of the conversation rather than the embarrassment which he may experience in group feedback.
Managers Should Show Empathy
The very foundation of effective feedback is empathy. Great leaders have the capability to understand their own emotions, regulate them as well as understand the feeling of other people.
Criticism becomes effective when managers understand how destructive criticism can impact employees on the receiving end.
Managers who lack empathy give feedback in a rude manner. Their criticism is accompanied by personal attacks that cripple the employees emotionally.
As a result, the employees experience resentment, defensiveness, discontentment, and prefer distancing.
Developing a Culture of Diversity
The soft drink giant Coca Cola made headlines in the year 2012 when 16 current and former African American employees filed a racial discrimination suit against the company.
The lawsuit claimed that the minorities at Coca Cola, particularly African Americans, were racially discriminated against.
The racial discrimination came in the form of inequalities in promotional advancement, penal actions against the minorities and disproportionate division of overtime hours between the blacks and the whites.
The minorities also reported that they had to face racial insults repeatedly and no action was taken against the wrongdoers.
Such cases of corporate racial discrimination are not new and in order to overcome such prejudices, corporates have been conducting training to promote diversity within the organization.
The entire objective of giving such training to the employees is to make them accept diversity in terms of race, culture, gender, and age so that even if they have any sort of prejudices in their minds, they are able to overcome the same.
Besides showcasing humanity, it is important for employees to learn to work in a diverse environment as today corporates witness a mix of people hailing from different cultures, races, and communities.
It is just not the diverse culture at the workplace that the employees have to deal with. Rather, they also have to deal with customers belonging to different backgrounds.
Secondly, corporates promote diversity because they realize that people hailing from diverse cultures and markets bring different ideas on the table which gives companies a competitive advantage.
The advantage is in terms of increased creativity and entrepreneurial energy.
Thus, organizations are making every possible effort to bring a culture that promotes liberality even if each employee has his own set of biases.
But the question is how to bring about such endurance on the part of employees?
- Since prejudices develop quite early in life, it is impossible to eradicate them entirely. So, instead of trying to uproot the biases, the organizations should reprimand people who showcase any signs of racial discrimination.
- Since top managers hold important positions within the organization, they need to take initiative to condemn any acts of racial biasedness taking place within the organization.
- People working within the organizations should have emotional intelligence skills in terms of when and how to speak up against bias. That is, the criticism should be an effective one so that the recipients do not get defensive.
- Training courses undertaken by the organizations to promote diversity must pay attention to encouraging people to raise their voices against any sort of biases. Furthermore, such courses should also encourage people to showcase empathy and tolerance for diverse cultures and races.
- All the above efforts should be made on a regular basis as a one-time training course won’t do much in reducing the biases for different cultures and races.
Working on Group IQ
The most challenging times in a corporate culture are when employees have to work as a team.
What comes at play during such collaborations is not just the talents and skills of all those involved, but also their skills to maintain social harmony.
The ability to harmonize with other people in the group is the most important factor that sets apart productive teams from the ones who perform poorly.
That is to say, the most important factor in maximizing the productivity of the team is their ability to maintain internal harmony.
The internal harmony allows the group to take the maximum out of the talents of each of its members.
On the other hand, groups having members who have rivalry against each other cannot put in their best foot forward.
Besides internal harmony, people who spend time developing good relationships with those whose services might be of value when a team faces unanticipated challenges are able to handle such situations in a much better way.
This is because such people who have the capability to build informal networks are in a better state to deal with unexpected problems.
Lastly, the most important aspect that defines group IQ is empathy. People who had the following social skills had a higher group IQ
- ability to coordinate the efforts of team members effectively
- make the team members come to a consensus
- observe things from the perspective of other people including customers and fellow team members
- ability to persuade
- promote cooperation and avoid conflicts
- are self-motivated to take responsibilities way beyond their position
- self-managed their time and work commitments quite well
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