Many of you know Daniel Goleman for his 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence. He recently wrote an article questioning if emotional intelligence is declining. The report was likely partly driven by the tech layoffs over the past year. Many layoffs were done by text or email, sometimes without explanation, and many companies didn’t offer severance or health insurance on termination.
For the executives doing the firing, it is far easier for them if they don’t have to do it face-to-face with the employee. However, for the employee, it adds insult to injury. The lack of empathy or recognition of emotional pain leads Goleman to question whether emotional intelligence is declining.
Let’s start with a definition that is admittedly complex. According to Psychology Today, “Emotional intelligence is a complex construct consisting of four factors: well-being, self-control, emotionality, and sociability. The factor of well-being encompasses one’s positive self-evaluations, as well as feelings of happiness and optimism. The factor of self-control includes the ability to regulate one’s feelings, including emotions, stress, and impulses. The factor of emotionality involves relationship skills such as one’s ability to accurately perceive one’s own as well as others’ feelings and one’s capacity to experience empathy. The factor of sociability includes one’s ability to communicate effectively, exert influence over others, and build social networks.”
Goleman’s piece for Korn Ferry mentioned that the pandemic may have impacted people’s ability to interact face-to-face. As remote work became the norm and people spent less time together, their skills may have declined.
According to the article, the most recent data found several declines, “The biggest was in “emotional self-regulation,” a fancy way of saying folks are more prone to rage, panic, and anxiety now than in past years.” On the bright side, empathy didn’t erode much, indicating that people still desire human connection.
Goleman’s data is similar to the Korn Ferry Institute’s Emotional and Social Competence Inventory. “Consider self-mastery (or self-control as noted above), which we defined as a combination of emotional self-awareness and self-regulation…Emotional self-awareness is the foundational skill in emotional intelligence. Lacking awareness of your emotions makes regulating them difficult. Leaders with strengths in self-awareness, the Korn Ferry Institute found, are likely to demonstrate effectiveness in the emotional-intelligence realm. But leaders with few strengths here are more likely to have direct reports who are quietly planning to exit.”
The impact of self-mastery has likely been subtle to these leaders. Three years after the pandemic, the uncertain economic environment we continue to work in has fostered a sense of uncertainty and lack of control. Unsurprisingly, we’re seeing anxiety more pronounced than in the past.
Additionally, the pace of technological change, with AI being the latest, has people concerned about the future of their employment. Combined with social media behaviors, changing societal norms, and an always-on expectation from some employers, focusing on emotional intelligence has become essential to creating a solid company culture. Unchecked, a decline in emotional intelligence can not only impact employee engagement but could also negatively impact the bottom line.
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