Daniel Goleman has a blunt warning for jobseekers in 2022 and beyond: It’s no longer enough just to be smart.
Dr Goleman, an American author and psychologist, has spent decades touting the importance of ’emotional intelligence’ in the workplace and other areas of life.
And it appears companies and organizations have caught up with him.
“[In the mid-1990s] someone said to me, ‘you know, you can’t use the word emotion in a business context’. Today, it’s very, very different,” he tells ABC RN’s Future Tense.
But what exactly is emotional intelligence or EI? And is it just more work-speak or ‘a must-have skill’ of the future?
What is emotional intelligence?
There are several definitions of emotional intelligence, but it boils down to understanding your emotions, understanding the emotions of those around you, and acting accordingly.
Dr Goleman, who put the term on the map with his 1995 book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, says it has four main components.
first-up, self awareness. Or as Dr Goleman puts it: “Knowing what you’re feeling, why you feel it, how it makes you think and want to act, how it shapes your perceptions.” So, for example, being able to label an emotion like anger and know the causes behind it.
The second part is “using that information to manage your emotions, in a positive way. To stay motivated, to stay focused, to be adaptable and agile, instead of rigid and locked in.”
The third part involves connecting with other people’s emotions — practicing empathy. It’s “understanding how someone else feels without them telling you in words, because people don’t tell us in words, they tell us in tone of voice and facial expressions, and so on”.
And finally— relationship management or “putting that all together to have effective relationships.”
Dr Goleman also makes a key point: It’s not simply about being nice.
“There’s a difference between being nice and being kind. And it’s really important to understand. You might be nice just not to create waves and get along — but that doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily helping.”
Why does it matter?
Amol Khadikar is a program manager at the Capgemini Research Institute and is based in India.
“[Emotional intelligence] is increasingly seen as a very valuable thing, and its importance has only increased in the last couple of years,” Mr Khadikar says.
Mr Khadikar and his organization tried to measure this with a survey asking 750 executives and 1,500 non-supervisory employees around the world about emotional intelligence.
It found 74 per cent of executives and 58 per cent of non-supervisory employees believe that EI will become a “must-have” skill.
Mr Khadikar says EI will become more important in the years ahead because of one continuing development — as automation and AI see more manual or routine jobs replaced by machines, jobs involving interpersonal skills will be the dominant jobs of the future.
“We [already] see more and more of a demand for people to have skills which require relationship building, more client-facing work,” he says.
“and [the survey] found that the demand for emotional intelligence skills will multiply on average by about six times within the next three to five years.”
Mr Khadikar and his team also built a financial model to assess a potential upside from investing in emotional intelligence training — looking at outcomes like revenue, costs, productivity and workplace attrition.
“We clearly found that there is, essentially, an upside, we found that an investment of around $3 million in an average organization can potentially result in an incremental gain of about $6.8 million over the next three years… And this was a conservative scenario. “
He also cited a study conducted by French personal care company L’Oreal which found that employees with high EI skills outsold other salespeople on an annual basis by around $91,000, resulting in a net revenue increase of more than $2.5 million.
Backed up with training?
Dr Goleman says when he wrote his book in 1995, there was little, if any data, around the benefits of high emotional intelligence.
“Now we know it’s clear,” Dr Goleman says.
“In the workplace, it turns out that emotionally intelligent workers perform better, they’re more engaged in what they do. Leaders who have emotional intelligence get better productivity out of people, and people like working for them,” he says.
But when it comes to exactly how the concept is embraced, it’s much more of a patchwork.
“Most organizations will espouse some interest in [emotional intelligence] — some do it well, some don’t,” Dr Goleman says.
He says while “I think at [an executive level]many people have the luxury of being coached [on emotional intelligence],” training is not widespread outside executive roles.
It’s a point backed up by Mr Khadikar.
“[In our study] we actually found that only about 17 per cent of organizations conduct emotional intelligence training for their non-supervisory employees and only about 32 per cent do so for the middle management employees,” he says.
And Dr Goleman says at worst, some organizations only pay lip service to the idea: Promoting EI but not practicing it.
“It’s the same as with ‘greenwashing,’ where a company or a spokesperson for a company will say, ‘yes, we do this, we advocate emotional intelligence’ … But if you look at their current track record, you realize it’s BS, it’s not true.”
EI in a post-COVID workplace
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted traditional workplaces and as cases spike around Australia, some employers are advising their staff to work from home once again.
So what does emotional intelligence look like in a workplace connected through Teams or Zoom? Or more broadly, in increasingly digitized and fragmented professional environments?
Dr Goleman says workplaces need to make sure one-on-one time still exists, as our emotional wellbeing can take a battering if we’re all totally isolated from one another.
“But one-on-one can be digital too. The idea is that it’s personal, you’re talking to the person about themselves, not just about the task at hand, which tends to happen in group calls,” he says.
“So I think that it’s important to balance the isolation, the specialization that can go on in digital media, with having person-to-person [time] that’s in person or online.”
How do you improve your emotional intelligence?
Dr Goleman says we can all improve our emotional intelligence.
“It’s really about habit change,” he says.
He says the most prevalent manifestation of low emotional intelligence in the workplace is poor listening, so, for example, interrupting people or taking over a conversation too soon.
“If you want to change that, that’s a habit. You’ve practiced it thousands of times.”
Dr Goleman says: “First of all, be mindful that this is a moment I can change. Second, you have to have a different repertoire — a new habit to replace it with. [Then] practice that at every naturally occurring opportunity.”
“When you do that kind of learning, it changes the brain, the circuitry for that behavioral sequence, it takes on the new habit, and you do it automatically after a while,” he says.
“It does take a little work, it takes a little persistence, but our data shows it’s very possible.”
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