Several years working in a small HR department taught me how much valuable time is wasted on Employee Relations issues. At one time or another, every professional in the department was distracted from a project by having to refocus on resolving interpersonal or management-related conflicts in the organization.
Now that I’ve expanded my expertise in Emotional Intelligence, I’m convinced that teaching the essential skills of emotional intelligence is a great solution for reducing Employee Relations issues.
Emotional Intelligence is taught from a variety of formats. Some use trait or preference-based assessments, others recommend behaviors or philosophies, and yet more are meme-based or reduce the topic to a quality like “civility.” Although all of these approaches can add value, I’ve found the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence methods deliver the most impact. They teach four core skills that boost the results of any training or coaching interventions.
1. The skill of Emotional Self-awareness is the root of individual responsibility. When people forge the habit of awareness they become adults in their interactions with others. With practice and self-empathy, they free themselves from patterns and projections, reduce defensiveness and gain authenticity. Imagine the efficiency of a culture in which everyone is learning and increasing this one skill.
Emotional self-awareness increases the ability to understand the emotions of others. Add the cues of recognizing emotions in others and it begins to function as social awareness.
2. Advanced Emotional Knowledge increases overall empathy, and allows individuals to be precise about what they’re feeling. Studies have shown that most people have an emotional vocabulary of three to six words: angry, sad, happy, surprised, scared, and disgusted. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but – “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
I was once involved in an Employee Relations issue in which both parties swore the other was extremely angry with them. After a little interviewing it was clear they were both under pressure and frustrated. Frustration can look like anger, but generally, it’s down a few notches on the intensity scale. Add vocabulary to emotional self-awareness and personal emotional interpretation improves situational understanding. Empathy rises. Assigning other words to the emotions in that situation saved someone his job. If they had possessed the skill of accurate labeling, it would have prevented the time lost doing an investigation and intervention. Add the knowledge of how emotions change, blend, and cluster and we’re much more equipped to engage and resolve interpersonal predicaments.
3. The skill of Emotional Regulation is how we leverage Emotional Self-awareness. With awareness and knowledge, we have the choice and the skill to use emotions as vital information. They’re based on our amazing brains and bodies picking up cues that are meant to guide our actions and decisions. There is no such thing as a bad emotion. They are all extremely valuable. We are not at their mercy. We can choose how we use them. We can “regulate” them. It’s something we’ve been doing since birth, and our upbringing taught us our initial regulation skills. Some were helpful and chances are at least a few were not.
In the scenario above, either party could have defused the situation by recognizing the emotional state of the other and choosing to help him out by understanding. Or by just taking a deep breath and releasing some of his frustration.
We teach scores of techniques you can use to match the appropriateness of the moment and the intensity of the emotion. This is another layer of self-responsibility that also translates to the social level. We naturally regulate others with our behaviors and with thought, can make powerfully skillful strategic choices.
4. Finally, intelligent Emotional Expression is the culmination of the skills and knowledge listed above. You can use techniques, verbal skills, and mindsets with some success but without the skills of emotional self-awareness and regulation, they can fall flat. Put the oxygen mask of emotional self-awareness on your face first. Accepting and intelligently working with emotions strengthens genuineness. That genuineness is an aspect of empathy prone to consider others’ needs. The golden combo for effective communication.
Beyond Employee Relations, using emotional skills to match organizational emotional taboos, and social contexts empowers communication. Like a skillful aikido move, matching first can help create change. Planning for the emotional impact of strategy and change can shape the communications of both for greater engagement and improve the original game plan to strengthen the results. Emotional skill is the great compass of intention.
From the personal and incremental to cultural and strategic, emotional skill eliminates time wasters, reduces conflict, and enables innovation to thrive in an organization.