Unfortunately, CEOs and other executives continue to display a startling lack of emotional intelligence in the workplace. This can have repercussions that affect both the individual and the collective. Executives must recognise that, unless they shift their attitudes and outlook, they will fail to keep up with changing times.
If I were to ask you to find me an example of a stereotype, most of us would look no further than movies for an answer. The silver screen is dominated by caricatures that keep us engaged. From the lazy Dad to the mischievous son, the examples are endless.
One archetypal movie character is the hard-line, robotic boss who never gives our loveable protagonist an inch. Most of us sit back and laugh at these sorts of characters; we assume they are an exaggeration that pokes fun at the authority figures in our lives.
It comes as a surprise, therefore, that a recent study by TalentSmart found that CEOs rank at the bottom of the office when it comes to displays of emotional intelligence. While this research does recognise that mid-tier managers demonstrate high levels of emotional intelligence (78 on TalentSmart’s scale), high-ranking executives are much further behind (71) when it comes to displays of empathy, understanding and connections with team-members.
Such findings are quite shocking. Corporate Australia prides itself on being at the cutting edge of technology, HR practices, mental health, innovation and so on. Yet, when it comes to its leaders’ capacity to forge worthwhile relationships with their team members, they are still rooted in the 1960s. Executives, in the eyes of employees at least, remain crusty and bitter, incapable of cultivating meaningful bonds with those they are meant to inspire and encourage.
The effects of a leader with poor emotional intelligence on his or her workplace can be massive. For one, as noted in Mohammed Issah’s 2018 research, communication tends to suffer. Executives who come across as hostile or unsympathetic are unable to foster an open environment where employees feel secure enough to talk to them about work-based and personal problems. As a result, the quality of work is likely to suffer and team members become less inclined to continue their employment.
You can’t blame employees for this. We can all remember a time where one of our friends or parents has been too curt with us. The last thing you want to do when they are acting hostile is listen to them, do them a favour or talk to them about how you are feeling – because you just know they are going to be rude to you. This natural, human pushback exists in the office in the same way that it does in our personal lives.
Executives have a multifaceted relationship with engagement. They are not only responsible for making sure they are engaged with their own work; rather, they must ensure their employees feel connected to the workplace. Therefore, it is absolutely vital that executives approach their interactions with employees tactfully and intelligently.
Forbes identifies a few strategies for executives to develop their emotional intelligence. For one, executives must consider and address their negative emotions. Oftentimes, we carry our stressors and moods from our personal lives into the workplace, which affects our interactions. If you can identify the source of your troubles and deal with them, your ability to connect with others should naturally improve. Secondly, you must be mindful of your tone and language. When you are angry or disappointed, it is easy to forget the impact of your response upon the subject of your negativity. While it may be satisfying to release these feelings, you are doing nothing to remedy the problem – in fact, you are likely to be making it worse. Put yourself in your employee’s shoes and consider the best response so that they can improve their performance without feeling humiliated.
If executives wish to live up to their titles and forge strong, talented, high performing employees, then they must leave their infantile strops and hissy fits exactly where they belong – in ancient history.