In Part 1 of this post, I focused on how to share your emotional intelligence (EI) assets in your written career communications tools – resumes, letters, and LinkedIn. In part 3, I’d like to share ways you can do the same thing in interviews, whether via the phone or in person. But before getting to that important subject, let’s backtrack a little and clarify exactly what emotional intelligence is, so you understand the reason we’re spending so much time on this subject.
Put most simply, emotional intelligence is “the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, others, and groups “ (Wikipedia). One quick personal story will exemplify the role EI can play in the workplace and demonstrate one of the many reasons employers are hot on the trail of emotionally intelligent candidates (particularly in leadership and management roles).
Many, many years ago, I was managing a career center for a large local not-for-profit organization and reported to the Executive Director. One day we attended the same meeting with a key funder of our organization, and in the course of that meeting I offered an opinion on something (which I can no longer remember). On the ride back to the office, my boss seemed his usual self. But the minute we walked into our front door, he blew up, raging about how I’d made him look stupid in the meeting. His emotional “vomiting,” if you will, quickly escalated and spanned all the perceived insults he’d experienced recently – his irritations with my peer managers, his wife, our board of directors, and so on.
His tirade seemed to last for ages, but I suspect is was only 5-7 minutes long. I was so stunned I literally said nothing (not that I could have gotten a word in edge-wise anyway). I avoided him for the rest of the day but had a one-on-one meeting with him a few days later. I prepared something to say but never got the chance – he focused only on business and never said a word about his outburst. In fact, he never did say a word about it for the rest of the time we worked together, which was a couple of years. It was if it never happened.
If you have ever worked for someone like this, you know his/her emotional tirades are quite a burden on everyone they work with. People walk around on eggshells, waiting for another outburst. It’s like working with a terrorist whose weapon is verbal attacks rather than AK-47s or suicide bombs. You can image the impact this has on employee retention, morale, productivity, and health insurance expenses – hence one key reason employers crave candidates with strong EI skills.
Both my former boss and I both exhibited poor EI skills on this day, though. Him, by being unable to manage his emotions around whatever it was he perceived to have happened in the meeting that started it all, and also being unable to process his outburst with me, let alone apologize. Me, by allowing myself to be subjected to such a tirade and going along with his silence on the subject after it occurred. I have to say I’ve learned a lot about myself and anger management since then, and hope I would handle both of these situations differently if they occurred again.
Now, if I were a job seeker, I’d need to be prepared to (a) improve my EI skills and (b) communicate by EI assets verbally. We could spend dozens of posts talking about ways to bolster EI skills, but here are a few to consider:
- Journaling: A time-honored practice that encourages self-discovery and personal growth.
- Counseling: The classic way to bolster self-awareness and alter self-defeating habits.
- Self-esteem building: Low self-esteem contributes to many EI deficiencies, hence improving self-esteem helps one flex one’s EI muscles in myriad ways.
- Stress management: Almost all of us recognize we’re much calmer in low- or no-stress situations.
- Emotion identification: A huge part of the EI problem is that so many of us struggle to name what we’re feeling, let alone be aware of our emotions in general.
- Non-verbal communications: Most communications is non-verbal; hence improving our ability to read others’ non-verbal clues (or send our own) helps enormously.
- Humor: Too much can be problematic, but the ability to difuse tense situations with appropriate humor is a rare gift.
- Conflict management: Conflicts will arise eventually if 2 or more people are involved; getting ready for that moment simply makes good sense.
Here’s to emotionally intelligent workplaces!