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Emotional Intelligence in the Business Workplace

Emotional Intelligence: Two Approaches in the Workplace

Humans are emotional creatures and emotions can get messy. Is it possible to keep that mess to a minimum at work? Let’s look at whether we, as managers in the workplace, should spend time helping our employees deal with their emotions or if it is best to let the employees work out their emotions on their own. Those two extreme approaches have the pros and cons.

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The “Less Emotion Is Better” Approach

Many managers believe that being “touchy-feely” is a great negative. They believe that their leadership approach must not be overly-focused on people’s feelings. To do so would be considered a sign of weakness – a distraction the leader cannot afford. “Human emotions get in the way,” they might say.

These leaders may think that it is better to not address emotions that come up in the workplace and let the individual deal with them on their own. This type of manager may think that putting too much emphasis on worker’s feelings keeps them from getting their jobs done. They are right - to a certain extent.

Over-emphasizing employee emotions can be a performance distraction, but that shouldn’t mean we disregard feelings altogether. I have heard managers say, “Well, I’m not going to coddle my employees.” This can be a good thing or it can be an excuse a manager makes so that they do not have to deal with the complications that people’s feelings bring to the workplace.

Do Emotions in the Workplace Matter?

Managers might think that it doesn’t matter how the employees feel. “They have to learn how to get over it.” But when managers don’t show enough concern for their employees’ feelings (use harsh or blunt words, lack statements of appreciation, provide minimal collaboration, etc.) they are viewed by their employees as uncaring, authoritarian, and even jerks.

Employees are less likely to perform their best for these managers and are more likely to feel that their job is just a job with no inspiration to strive for higher levels of performance. Not only does a lack of emotional intelligence in the business workplace impede on the manager’s effectiveness, it can also be a characteristic of the organization’s culture. The organization may be known as one that “chews them up and spits them out.”

To those organizations and those managers who have this belief, I would challenge them with the following: If we humans are emotional creatures, then how can we expect the best from our workers if we are not considering such a fundamental? How can we expect them to perform at their best?

In my experience, I have found that many managers who take this “no emotions” approach see performance and people on opposite sides of a spectrum. They may believe that to focus on people and their feelings means that you do so to the exclusion of focusing on performance and vice versa – focusing on performance means that you do so to the exclusion of caring about people and their feelings.

If an organization wants to change this aspect of their management culture, leaders must gain the awareness that a focus on performance and a focus on people’s feelings can co-exist – both can be emphasized. Successful leaders understand this and know that when they demonstrate compassion for the individual and let them know that they care for them as individuals. Caring does not exist to the exclusion of expecting high performance from them.

The “I Care Too Much About My Employees” Approach

When our “less emotions is better” managers say that emotions can be a distraction at work, there is some truth in their statement. Some managers do exclude performance expectations for the sake of considering employee emotions. The manager that is overly concerned about feelings is the classic “touchy-feely” manager.

When they give out assignments, they make sure that everybody is okay and that there are no hard feelings about what they are asked to do. They may have trouble making tough decisions because they know that feelings will get hurt. “Touchy-feely“ managers who over-emphasize feelings may be perceived as too involved in their employees’ personal affairs.

Most importantly, these managers are seen as not putting enough emphasis on performance. Even employees will get frustrated with this type of leadership style. Asking, “How do you feel?” too often make meetings feel more like a therapy sessions and the manager more like a therapist than a boss. If over-used, it will become annoying and, in fact, do the very thing the “less emotions is better” managers are concerned about – it will distract people from performing their jobs.

Regards.

John Sporleder
Sporleder Human Capital
john@sporconsulting.com

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