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Managing Workplace Emotions – Latest Findings
In A League of Their Own, a memorable 1992 flick, on a lesser known area of American baseball history, Tom Hanks while berating a female player, remarks, “ARE YOU CRYING? There’s no crying! THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!” The nub is that both business and baseball have emotional pivots and feelings gush all over.
Consider the Fall Classic, FIFA championships or even an IPO launch – veritable melting pots of emotions. Any line of business can produce as much emotions among its employees as any sports activity among its fans. Emotions hold a sway on our everyday lives. All of us have different emotional and psychological needs which cannot be ignored, over-controlled or abused. To cultivate awareness of these needs takes us closer to steps culminating in their satisfaction. Emotions are generally not given freeway in any business as uncontrolled emotions of employees can adversely impact productivity, sensitivity and focus of other staff members.
Employees with bruised feelings and hurt egos either withdraw into closed shells avoiding co-workers or act as agents of sabotage. They rejoice in skipping deadlines, not contributing in meetings and even slighting the clients. However, it is believed that nine out of ten times such behavior is unconscious and can spell huge losses to the company in terms of market control, financial well-being and employee turnover. There is an old Chinese saying, “When persons prevent their emotions from overtaking their rationality, it is called reason. When persons prevent their rationality from overtaking their emotions, it is called compassion.
When persons can do both, it is called wisdom.” It hardly begs emphasis that in modern organizational culture any hint, expression, or application of emotion is viewed as unpraiseworthy and futile. In 2002, Michael Kramer and Jon Hess, Communication scholars from the University of Missouri-Columbia, conducted a major research on display of emotions in organizational settings. They discovered that a) proper emotional management is key to professionalism, b) both negative and positive emotions have to be revealed in apt ways, and c) masking the negative emotions constitutes appropriate display of them. Strangely, those surveyed even held that positive emotions, too, ought to be conveyed in moderation. Employees advocated such a masking of feelings when somebody got promotion or a hike primarily since a co-worker might have missed out. The entire contact center industry visibly reflects how the agent force deftly manages its emotions clinging to only the positive ones irrespective of any situation. Performance in business or any other activity is influenced by feelings.
All other skills and techniques are lost if the skill of administering one’s feelings is unavailable. Top-line performers know it well that it is mind that towers above technical or material resources. From Martina Navratilova to Maria Sharapowa, in tennis, for instance, every great sportsperson has battled it out not so much on courts but within their heads. Mental toughness is so vital for productivity, still we find it overlooked largely in training programs for employees. Nervousness, suspicion, anxiety, anger are such negative emotions that can be effectively managed through mental skills training schedules. All organizations are emotional sites and a fine measure of leadership is purely about emotional management. Professional success, recent research shows, is attributable more to emotional intelligence or EQ than to cognitive intelligence. Our capacity to efficiently spot, interpret and react to our own as well as our co-workers’ emotions constitutes our EQ. Daniel Goleman in his 1999 book Working with Emotional Intelligence, considers EI to be distinct yet complementary to academic intelligence or IQ.
Bruce Cryer, vice president, global business development, for Boulder Creek, California-based HeartMath, and co-author of From Chaos to Coherence: Advancing Emotional and Organizational Intelligence Through Inner Quality Management (1998), pushes Goleman’s ideas one level higher. He indicates, “From proven biological models, we now know that emotional intelligence is not just a new twist on relaxation techniques, it’s about genuinely increasing the internal coherence and balance of a person. No longer is there any doubt that our emotional states affect our brain and its ability to process information.” Employees as well as bosses with high EQ are adept in maintaining positive air, adapting to change, relating to others while sympathizing with them. The higher one goes in a professional setting, the greater the role of emotional intelligence.
In the words of Dr Stein, CEO of Multi-Health Systems, a North Tonawanda, New York-based company dealing in psychological assessments for professionals, “IQ is what gets you hired- it’s what gets you in the door. EI is what helps you move up the ladder.” The fascinating side, however, is that in contrast to IQ, our emotional skills can always be learnt and bettered whenever we actually want them to. Goleman says, “Emotional competencies determine how we manage ourselves…[and] social competencies determine how we handle relationships.” A 2007 study by Multi-Health Systems has suggested that stress can impair emotional intelligence and workplace effectiveness. Close to 53 percent of 1,014 employees surveyed held that stress hurts their relationship with colleagues and 43 percent noticed it often influences their decision-making in workplace as much as it impacts their productivity.
Despite several researches on the benefits of Emotional Intelligence, the facts are often routinely neglected by those in authority and command. A typical persistence among leaders in old patterns of coercion and intimidation leaves most employees in a demoralized state eliciting begrudging compliance. Consider Vipul, an online media manager in a social media agency. Having put in six arduous years in his company, he managed to get the best appraisals year after year for benchmarked contributions. A terrible car accident left him now to struggle with pain and mounting medical bills. However, on informing his marketing head that he might need a recovery leave of 5 weeks, Vipul got the shock of his life. “Such prolonged absence from work might really kick off a debate in the coming Budget meeting when I would argue for higher media allocations.” Instead of giving a reassuring “I-am-there-to-figure-it-out statement while accommodating leave request, a message of sheer apathy was given out by the boss. Needless to say, the company lost one dedicated performer from its rolls that day.
Basically, it is a gross error to disregard the motivations, inputs and intellect of other individuals in a company. An I-don’t-care or I-am-the-bottomline-head-here attitude might be technically valid but is a damaging one to adopt when dealing with employees in any organizational setting. What employees need, particularly those with deep knowledge of their domain, is that they are given a hearing and their opinions are valued by others. Opportunities are missed, results are less effective and overall resources are squandered when dispirited, grudging employees loose commitment and motivation. Extant studies establish in unison that emotions or, precisely, Emotional Intelligence shapes human behavior in diverse realms including workplace, community and schools. On the individual plane, it is found to relate to work performance, our ability to communicate effectively, build meaningful interpersonal relationships, resolve everyday problems, scholastic achievement, and even our potential to make moral decisions. Admitting the possibility of EI to amplify our understanding of how individuals behave and adjust to their social environment, it forms an area of immediate attention to HR managers and practitioners.
They need to integrate the significance of EI-based capabilities into organizational functions. The findings of a 1997 study Competency assessment methods: History and state of the art by Spencer, McClelland & Kelner were interesting. An assessment of 300 top-level executives from fifteen global companies revealed that six emotional competencies separated star performers from the average: Organizational Awareness, Team Leadership, Self-confidence, Achievement Drive, Leadership and Influence. There is ample data suggesting that emotionally intelligent leadership is the means for creating a work environment which nurtures employees and pushes them to give their best. The resultant enthusiasm, in turn, perks up overall business performance.
This dribbling effect was noticed, for instance, in Daniel Williams study Leadership for the 21st Century involving CEOs in U.S. insurance companies. Companies of comparable size whose CEOs displayed greater EI competencies evidenced better fiscal results as calculated by both growth and profit. HR practitioners and managers in general should be especially careful not to consider their emotions and moods as things that just ‘occur’. They need to comprehend that moods and emotions both impact performance, behavior and relationship on individual and organizational levels. Before dealing with emotional condition of others, they need to know and manage their own emotional situation. No good organization can claim total freedom from emotional pain. However, this vital element should always be checked and reined in by HR personnel in general and all else in particular in any workplace.
Bad emotional experience always takes its toll in terms of thwarted problem-solving ability, innovation, commitment, creativity and productivity. Diversity in appearance, food habits, beliefs, thought patterns, reactions, choices and so on define any and every workplace. Nothing could be easier to handle this except by honouring it. HR people need to ensure that staffers have means to express their varied beliefs and opinions. To encourage and stimulate healthy emotional climate among employees, HR managers should:
1) promote open communication and honest feedback.
2) emphasize that speaking about emotion within organization is fine.
3) specify that loud thinking among team members is okay.
4) enlighten staffers that it is no sin to admit some of management’s ideas may be flawed.
5) organize standardized training on Emotional Intelligence and competency building.
6) stress the value of striking emotional bonds with one’s allotted task.
7) highlight the benefits of maintaining informal, cheerful and positive work spaces.
Emotional intelligence ought to factor as a sensitive recruitment criterion along with other relevant technical skills or business knowledge. In case of promotions and succession planning, EI should figure as a decisive factor, mainly if leadership roles are foreseen. Even while selecting and grooming people with good potential EI should be emphasized. Similarly training and development programs must spotlight EI. Whether it is through some emotional release session or team-building exercises, the fact is, today, more and more CEO’s are donning the hat of counselors to their workforce. The biggest imperative before all the leaders and business owners is to make sure that negative emotions do not end up creating negative spaces and negative consequences within organizations. Unleashing a culture of positivity and openness holds the key to effective emotion management in any company.
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