Sunday, September 19, 2021

Management, Emotional Intelligence and other thoughts

I am a bit all off the place with this post. It started out because I was looking at our local Nextdoor web page - something I very rarely do, and I was struck by how negative and angry everyone seems to be. Some people posting joking comments on posts (and the comments were amusing and clearly intended to be funny) to be attacked by literally dozens of  'God fearing' neighbors. I say god fearing because so many of them spouted religious 'curses' upon them for being 'cruel'. Clearly with no sense of humor as they obviously missed the joke.

Of course, I understand that this pandemic has caused so many people to get very stressed. But I too have been here for the pandemic, experiencing similar stressful issues, not least of which is the low vaccination and high infection rate in this area. I have been lucky enough to have, for most of it, a job where I could work from home. I know many people either had to go out and work among those unmasked anti-vaxxers, or worse, have not been able to work at all. 

I know people who have suffered like that and still remain good, kind, caring adults. The amount of hate and open cruelty being shown is, in itself, stressful. You would think that people who are stressed would understand, and try to alleviate the stress of others. Instead of deliberately adding to it. For instance the unfortunate restaurant hostess in New York who was physically attacked by a group of people, because she asked to see their proof of vaccination, currently the law in NY.

It is impossible to condone attacking people, physically or verbally because they don't agree with your political choices, are not the same color as you, or don't worship the same god (or gods) - or don't worship any god, or just because you are stressed. The color and religious prejudices have been fairly constant not just in the US, but across the world. But suddenly this appears publicly acceptable in the US. It is hard to believe and impossible to condone. 

It used to be that, for most civilized people, your political or religious ideology was not something that broke up friendships, even families. Not anymore.

I first became interested in the concept of emotional intelligence, EQ as opposed to IQ, when researching for a post I was writing as is usually the case, as a therapy. I was trying to understand why my mother in law behaved the way she did. She almost never showed appreciation for anything that was done for her; taking everything for granted. In fact often complaining rather than showing appreciation. Please and thank you were not part of her vocabulary. And she frequently made  cutting remarks without appearing to realize how hurtful they were. Example "You are fat."

Since then I have observed EQ, and more often the lack of it, coming into play in so many different areas of life. I am now convinced that part of any interview for any job, but most especially for people management, should include testing for emotional intelligence. This website has an interesting article about the importance of EQ in management. If you can't understand how another human being is feeling and what 'makes them tick' you can't properly manage them. You can't direct them to be their very best. 

"The job of the manager is to find a way to turn a team member’s skill and talent into a higher level of performance. This idea doesn’t suggest manipulation at all. Instead, it is about maximizing human potential, one team member at a time. It is as much art as it is science."

I had 5 siblings, we were, and are, all so totally different from each other in every way. I have been a people manager in three different companies; the last time managing a team of the same people for 4 years. I have experienced how using EQ to get the best from and for people actually works. And sadly, how the lack of EQ causes so much harm to people and stagnation to progress in the workplace. It is important to relate to people in a way that they understand and can respond to, if you want to get along with them. It is also important to be able to see things from another's point of view, to at least consider that point of view when dealing with them.

EQ is essential in every walk of life. Family, school, work and political. Those people who can tolerate kids in cages without a second thought, they have low or no EQ. That manager who drove me out of Amazon, has no EQ. That is obvious by the way she is now attempting to manage my team of high performing engineers. She is incapable of understanding how they think and feel, therefore unable to play to their talents and skills; and unable to see how she is squeezing any pleasure out of their working day.

I can't begin to explain how it hurts and frustrates me. My husband constantly reminds me that I can't take care of everyone, I can't fix everything that is wrong. But I can't just do nothing either.

I particularly like this article on Today's Parent, explaining why EQ is more important than IQ. Another great article looks at this from the opposite side, the signs of low EQ. Looking back on my life, I can identify the people who had low EQ and those who had high EQ. I do have one question, is it bad to have EQ that is too high? Here is an article on the downside of high EQ.

"Taken too far, however, it can slide from influencing others to engaging in tactics of manipulation. The risk of overusing one’s social skills is in focusing heavily on the emotional aspects of communication while neglecting logical arguments and the more transactional aspects of communication. In that sense, the darker side of EQ is helping people with bad intentions to be overly persuasive and get their way."

And finally, the 12 elements of EQ listed by the Huffington Post in this article.

  • Empathy
  • Associating actions with consequences
  • Good judgment
  • Personal responsibility
  • Insight
  • Mental flexibility
  • Compassion
  • Integrity
  • Impulse control
  • Deferring gratification
  • Perseverance
  • Emotional Courage

What I find most interesting about this list is that almost every one of the elements are is some way a part of one or more of Amazon's Leadership Principles, with two notable exceptions, Empathy and Compassion. How much better it would be for Amazon and for the employees if they somehow added these.

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