Posted On June 27, 2019

In recent years, managing your employees has become a much complex task. Overall, workers carry many more skills and, along with this, different expectations. Couple this with a more multicultural environment, a skilled manager has to have the ability to make considerations not only based on job specifications and key performance indicators, but they must also be able to take into consideration a range of psychological and emotional factors that affect how their employees perform. Today, we will talk about the concept of emotional intelligence, a skill that managers can improve in order to facilitate employee work in a more nuanced fashion.

Emotional intelligence can be roughly defined as the ability to maneuver through interpersonal relationships. More specifically, managers who possess high emotional intelligence also know how to manage the relationships they have with their employees so that they are productive and have high morale. Even more importantly, they know how to use this skill to create a great working environment between their workers as well.

A person with high emotional intelligence knows how to identify and label their own feelings and emotions. In addition, they know what adjustments to make in the right contexts to avoid having these emotions affect their work or relationships negatively, and in the right cases, even turn them around. At the same time, they are able to do the same in terms of others.

An example of a person who has high emotional intelligence is someone who uses their social skills and understanding of emotions to craft strong bonds with their friends, maintain good familial ties, and find good business partners. In terms of work, a manager who has good emotional
Intelligence uses these social skills to create productive work environments, thereby helping their workers use their best talents while at the same time developing their weaker areas

Features of Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman, the leading authority on Emotional Intelligence, has identified five components that relate to it. Understanding these components and how they work together can help you navigate through difficult managerial scenarios.

1) Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the awareness of your own emotions and all the good and bad that come with it. As humans, we all have proclivities to act and react in certain ways in a situation, and there is evidence that such personality traits are genetic, even though the environment can somewhat influence how the traits manifest themselves in daily life. Therefore, being aware of our traits, emotions, and feelings is the first step.

As an example, think about the following situation—one morning, when you are reminding a usually amicable employee of a deadline due that day, she talks back at you saying you do not need to babysit her and micromanage all her work. How would you react here?

Thinking about how you usually would react when people are confrontational and setting up systems to make sure that your reactions do not get out of hand will help you.

For instance, some people act offended right away. Are you one of those people? Then, you might have a mantra or set three minutes after such an interaction just to reflect on the possibilities of your employee’s actions.

Others become nervous and blame themselves, and this may affect their whole workday and interaction with their employees. Again, if you know you are prone to this, you might create a system where, after negative employee interactions, you set one minute in your office to reflect and write down reasons as to why it is not your fault. Using these approaches, you are creating a logical balance for your naturally bias emotional side. Thus, think about how you react and then create systems to minimise any negative effects.

2) Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is the ability to take action and make plans so that emotions are expressed appropriately. A person with high self-regulation is aware of how their emotions and personality may influence others, and will take pro-active steps to make sure to mitigate any negative results that may result from their natural dispositions.

Self-regulation is highly related to self-awareness. In the above example, we have shown you how you can first take a step back and become aware of your emotions. After, you can make a plan to diffuse any negative emotions. A highly self-regulated manager might take it even a step further. Before even going into the job, they might have a list of emotional strong points and weak points for common managerial situations that they know they have to deal with. They might then list their emotional reactions next to these.

After, they might list a few action steps to take so that they can manage their emotions appropriately and to avoid or mitigate difficult situations. In this way, they know how to direct the way they express their emotions so that it does not harm their interpersonal relationships. The chart below is an example of an action plan.

Example of Self-Analysis of a Self-Regulated Manager

Situation

My Emotions

Action Steps

An employee who talks back

I get easily offended

  1. Take a step back.
  2. Tell them, “I understand your position. We will talk about this in an hour.”
  3. Go back to the office and list two reasons why they might be angry.
  4. Relax.

An employee who needs more guidance and asks a lot of questions

Annoyance

  1. Take time to set a personal training time with them.
  2. Take notes on any deficiencies in the employee guidebook (it might not be the employee’s problem)

Employees who do not get along

Overwhelm, confusion

  1. Analyse what they are fighting about and take notes on it.
  2. Sit them down individually to have a talk.
  3. Make a list of what you can do to help.
  4. Make necessary changes.

Notice how the action steps help alleviate the negative emotions. Moreover, it redirects the blame from the employee or the manager; there might be underlying problems and it is always good to consider these.

3) Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand how others feel. This component is the critical skill of recognising when others feel a certain way and how it might affect certain work situations. As a manager, it is important to note that not everyone is emotionally strong 100% all the time. Being able to deal with these situations is important. Important emotions to be able to detect might be:

  • Sadness
  • Low-Motivation
  • Fatigue
  • Resentment

In such situations, it is important that you as a manager are more careful than usual or show extra concern. Remember, your employees work for you to help you achieve a goal and so taking care of them so that you all can achieve a common goal is important. As such, dealing with these above emotions will help employee morale. In addition, perhaps something about the work or workplace itself is causing these emotions. For example, an employee might have low motivation because of the type of work they are doing. Even worse, the type of work they are doing might cause resentment. Such situations can become potential disasters.

Simply taking time to talk to your employees and trying to figure out what is going on emotionally, and then working with them to take steps to alleviate any negativity will help them become more productive. There is always room for some compromises.

4) Motivation

The fourth component is motivation. A lot of work in psychology has already been done on motivation, with the concept being split into intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation can be considered the inner drive of a person, the purpose of an individual, and more. Extrinsic motivation encompasses the more external rewards, such as a salary, bonuses, prizes, etc.

As a manager, recognizing the motivation of others will help you sail a smoother ship. What are your employees invested in? Once you know that, you can assign tasks appropriately, ones that hopefully build upon their hopes and aspirations. Employees want to work and improve, and finding out these motivations will help you assign the appropriate challenges so that their work is meaningful to both the company and them.

At times, it might seem that some employees have low motivation in general. This might be true sometimes, but it is probably the case that they simply have motivation for something else. Finding this out is also important. What about the current work that they are doing is not resonating with them? If you can find such information out and make adjustments so that they can truly show their skill, you will be a manager that will be truly respected.

Some ways to do this might be getting the team involved in overall planning of monthly objectives. Team involvement will help show you where people’s interests lie. Another technique is to have bi-weekly or weekly meetings with each team member to set personal goals. Such a system helps team members stay more motivated because it gives them a chance to exercise self-regulation, to decide how they can contribute to the company. As a manager, this shows that you respect their autonomy and that you are here to help them meet their needs of doing meaningful activities as well.

5) Social Skills

The skills we have talked before all fall under this umbrella, but social skills can be considered the fifth element. Perhaps this fifth element is more about the communication and dialogue capabilities. How you communicate to your employees is quite important, and in the scenarios above, you can see how social skills affect every category. For example, finding the right time to talk to employees is important.

For managers, developing strong communication skills is important so that you can build strong connections with your employees. Strong connections help you understand their emotions and personalities more, as well as their personal aspirations, which then help you manage them better as you set goals, assign tasks, and deal with everyday work situations. All this builds a virtuous cycle. Being able to express yourself in situationally appropriate ways will also help you gain the trust and admiration of your employees.

A good system to have for this is to have scripts ready for very common situations. For example, you might have a set of scripts for emails, or for situations where employees are arguing, and more. Such scripts help you match appropriate language to more touchy situations.

For example, if an employee sends an email to complain about a negative aspect at work, you might include the lines, “Thank you for your concern. I understand your situation and would like to meet with you to see what I can do to make things better.” Here, you are showing your empathy as well as showing that you will take action. At the same time, you are not negatively reacting, even though emotionally, such an email might be an annoyance.

Social skills are not just how you use language, but how you listen to people as well. Skills like actively listening and being able to paraphrase appropriately, nonverbal skills such as smiling and having eye contact, and the ability to take charge when appropriate, but at the same time not intruding into employees’ autonomy, are all quite important to eventually hone and master.

Final Considerations

The research on emotional intelligence does not have the scientific backing as general IQ does. However, the concept of interpersonal skills in general seems to be quite important in maneuvering through today’s work environment. Thus, the emotional intelligence framework offered in this article can be used as one tool out of many to help you know yours and other’s emotions better and navigate through common management scenarios.

Finally, you have probably noticed our emphasis on creating systems. Emotions are a peculiar thing, because they are spontaneous and we act before we think, regardless of our best efforts. The systems are our way of doing the thinking before the acting so that we have control of ourselves. Creating effective systems to fall back on is a way to show control and remind you of emotional intelligence principles.

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