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Op-Ed: Emotional Intelligence Is Back – Yawn, curse,… but?

Image by Tim Sandle of a computer in use at a workplace.

The return of emotional intelligence may not sound like the trumpets of joy to those who have seen it before. The sudden plague of bubbly emotional intelligence headlines certainly will NOT inspire much more than a disdainful sneer. The last time around the block was not a triumph.

I first encountered emotional intelligence about ten years ago. It was exactly the kind of useless abstract subject one could introduce into a management workshop. You could spend two days on it and accomplish precisely nothing.

At the time, and just before, I worked in the US and UK employment sectors. “Not impressed” barely describes my reaction to the original form of emotional intelligence.

I was dealing with people who worked in extremely hostile environments. These environments and the reactions to them were so horrible it was amazing. The idea of ​​emotional awareness, let alone intelligence, needed a lot of proof, and I couldn’t see it.

Some of these people were in what I would describe as psychotic environments, based on the large number of rudimentary stories of “this crazy thing happened, and then this crazy thing happened”. You could have trained generations of lawyers from what I watched on a daily basis.

Also, straight to the point – I had simultaneously had my own experiences of a complete lack of emotional intelligence as a freelancer. I ran into some of the least communicative people I’ve ever met (it’s not easy at all) on this bumpy ride.

I met a content manager who refused to even describe the specific jobs required. I have met many who thought that their vision of a profession was expressed in a few vague sentences in an unspecified email. Add to that the pedants and their ability to see a comma and turn it into an episode of CSI… While simultaneously missing all the point of any actual text…

Let’s put it this way – I’m not one to start raving about emotional intelligence. I have seen so few.

Step into Emotional Intelligence V2

having seen an article on ABC Australia touting the importance of emotional intelligence and how it’s now a must-have skill, it naturally caught my very cynical attention. I wondered if this was just another corporate trainer retraining exercise, reinventing a third wheel.

Apparently, that’s not the case. Emotional intelligence is really back and plugging in strongly. So, with emotional bucket and shovel and healthy levels of scatology in hand, I did some research.

I did a emotional intelligence test, and did it honestly. I scored high on Emotional Intelligence… Ah, sure… okay… It was a very simple test, and I thought the answers were obvious.

Then there were the inevitable and impeccable “X number of ways” articles. The numeric header is always a warning – You’re reading a formatted writer, to begin with. Nevertheless, I found an article with some objectivity on the achievement of objectives with emotional intelligence.

The conclusion was not obvious: this article was one of the few I’ve seen trying to show a practical value of emotional intelligence beyond lip service.

The point is, people behave the way they behave at work for their own reasons.

Objectives are the broad definition of these reasons. Dealing with the situation is another. This approach is therefore much more plausible. What good is emotional intelligence if you can’t apply it, after all?

Finally, some level of investment! This is where some real depth comes into the picture. Never mind the psychology of the “wellness” workplace which is essentially a facade. There is a LOT of psychology, most of it very irritating, in HR and management.

This psychology is usually a type of self-interested superficiality in the traditional workplace. “We focus on high morale” typically means “We have a few slogans, guidelines, token employees, and two of our 100 employees probably haven’t attempted suicide in the last 5 minutes”. That sort of thing.

There is nothing wrong with emotional intelligence theory. It’s adapting to an environment of colliding personalities, underachievers, and those sinister beasts in office politics that’s the problem.

“Achieving Goals” makes much more sense than just a ritual accompanied by the tonnage of garbage employment psychology that springs up all the time. So the new version of emotional intelligence is at least trying to be practical? It’s definitely a plus.

Emotional Intelligence in a Very Different Workplace

Things have changed a lot since the original version of emotional intelligence. Remote work is here to stay. Multi-role, multi-job environments are definitely a thing. You may be dealing with several people in different roles.

Careerism has also diverged. It is no longer an obsession with clear paths. People don’t just assume they’ll have a career these days. They can not. The job market is so fluid. So the “workplace” is really a range of jobs and roles. This is exactly where people management is very necessary.

There is another problem – Millennials and Gen Z are not naive. You can’t just hit them over the head with “gung ho” and expect any level of interest. They are proof of hype and propaganda to some degree. Remember, these guys grew up in an environment of solid spam and misinformation. They are rightly ready to believe nothing.

Tell them they need emotional intelligence, and everything you say should be expressed in real terms.

So maybe you need:

  • Basic negotiation skills, matching goals to interactions.
  • Mediation skills, finding common ground.
  • Appropriate context for emotional intelligence in specific situations.
  • Empathy is not an easy skill to learn or use; how about practice and examples?
  • Defuse training in more tense environments.
  • How about a female or other gender-specific “navigation-based” emotional intelligence for endless little minefields?
  • A cultural bridge? It’s a target that no one usually hits.

It’s too simple to pack a lunchbox of emotional intelligence skills and assume someone is getting what they need. Practical examples and working methods do not happen by chance.

To be fair, and despite my own distrust of the previous version of emotional intelligence, something has to change drastically. Something to have to be in place to handle the complexities of the modern workplace. These are perhaps the first cave paintings of the best options.


The opinions expressed in this Op-Ed are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Digital Journal or its members.