As Shoshana Zuboff, a psychologist at Harvard business school, pointed out, “Corporations come a corresponding transformation of the emotional landscape.”
A study of 250 executive done in the year 1970s, found that most felt their work demanded their heads but not their hearts. Many said they feared that feeling empathy or compassion for goals. One felt the idea of sensing the feelings of those who worked for him was absurd- it would, he said, be impossible to deal with people. Others protested that if they were not emotionally aloof they would be unable to make the “hard” decisions that business required- although the likelihood is that they would deliver those decisions more humanely.
Some of the reasons are patently obvious- imagine the consequences for a working group when someone is unable to keep from exploding in anger or has no sensitivity about what the people around him are feeling. When emotionally upset people cannot remember, attend, learn, or make decisions clearly. As one management consultant put it, stress makes people stupid.
On the positive side, imagine the benefits for work of being skilled in the basic emotional competences- being attuned to the feelings of those we deal with, being able to handle disagreements so they do not escalate, having the ability to get into flaw states while doing our work.
Leadership is not domination, but the art of persuading people to work toward a common goal. And, in terms of managing our own career, there may be nothing more essential than recognizing our deepest feelings about what to do- and what changes might make us more truly satisfied with our work.
By tracking the different 3 applications of emotional intelligence make: being able to air grievances a helpful critiques, creating an atmosphere in which diversity is valued rather than a source of friction, and networking effectively.
The Artful Critique. An artful critique focuses on what a person has done and can do rather than reading a mark of character into a job poorly done. And, in term of motivation, when people believe that their failures are due to some unchangeable deficit in themselves, they lose hope and stop trying. The basic belief that leads to optimism, remember, is that set backs are failures are due to circumstances that we can do something about to change them for the better.
Harry Levinson coma a psychologist turned corporate consultant gives the following advice on the art of critique, which is intricately entwined with the art of praise.
Be Specific. It demoralizes people just to hear that they are doing “something” wrong without knowing what the specific are so they can change. Focus on the specific, saying what the person did well, what was done poorly, and how it could be changed. Specificity is as just important for praise as for criticism.
Offer a Solution. The critiques should point to a way to fix the problem. Otherwise it leaves the recipient frustrated, demoralized, or demotivated. The critiques may open the door to possibilities and alternative that the person did not realize where there, or simply sensitize her to deficiencies that need attention- but should include suggestions about how to take care of these problems.
Be Present. Critiques, like praise, are most effective face to face and are private. People who are uncomfortable giving a criticism- or offering praise- are likely to ease the burden on themselves by doing it at a distance such as in a memo. But this makes the communication too impersonal and robs the person receiving it of an opportunity for a response or clarification.
Be sensitive. This a call for empathy for being attuned to the impact of what you say and how you say it on the person at the receiving end. The net effect of the hurtful criticism is destructive: instead of opening the way for a corrective, it creates an emotional backlash of resentment, bitterness, defensiveness and distance.
Dealing with Diversity. Skill of emotional intelligence are an advantage specially in having the social hack to know not just when but how to speak up productively against bias. Such feedback should be couched with all the finesse of an effective criticism, so it can be heard without defensiveness. If managers and co workers do this naturally, or learn to do so, bias incidents are more likely to fall away.
The more effective diversity training courses set a new, organization wide, explicit ground rule that makes bias in any form out-of-bounds, and so encourages people who have been silent witnesses and bystanders to voice their discomforts and objections. Another active ingredients in diversity courses is perspective taking, a stance that encourages empathy and tolerance. To the degree that people come to understand the pain of those who feel discriminated against, they are more likely to speak out against it.
For the future of all corporate life, a tomorrow where the basic skills of emotional intelligence will be ever more important, in teamwork, in cooperation, in helping people learn together how to work more effectively. As knowledge based services and intellectual capital become more central to corporations, improving the way people work together will be major way to leverage intellectual capital, making a critical competitive difference.
To thrive, if not survive; corporations would do well to boost their collective emotional intelligence.