Feel Your Way to the Top

sign board with the word emotions

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion.”

– Dale Carnegie

Few will argue that intelligence is a quality companies look for in their management team. But managers who are ‘book smart’ need a great deal more to achieve success and longevity in the workplace. Understanding a co-worker’s needs. Making informed and unbiased decisions. Grasping important nuances and body language cues. These are just some important aspects of leadership that are not dependent on mere intelligence. These scenarios are better served by someone with strong emotional intelligence. In today’s society, engaging feelings and emotions may be the real secret to your success.

Our emotions are our friends

“The ability to observe another’s perspective/wholeness involves rational thought and highly-tuned emotions.”

– Juli Geske Peer

In important work functions such as business deals, salary reviews, or hiring interviews, picking up on emotions will help us make better decisions. But success in these deeply human interactions involves an acute use of our senses. For example, my book 5 Senses for Success: Strategies to Thrive in Any Arena, details how our senses help us key in on what is important and unique about the interactions we have with others. In the chapter called Observe it is stated this way,

“We pay attention not only to the words being said, but also to the context of the conversation and the visual cues that key us into the speaker’s emotional state. Just as it’s impossible to decipher a jigsaw puzzle from a handful of pieces, so too is it difficult to extract meaning from another’s words if you only listen to a fraction of what is being said.”

To understand and respond to another’s emotional state we have to be aware of and engage our own. This is part of our Emotional Intelligence. A well-developed emotional intelligence (EI), otherwise known as Emotional Quotient or EQ, positively affects our:

  • Mental health
  • Physical health
  • Relationships
  • Self-management
  • Performance
  • Self-awareness

This so-called “soft skill” of emotional intelligence is highly useful in the workplace as well as in other interpersonal relationships with family, friends and the general public. An insightful Forbes article called. “Using Emotional Intelligence Is A Woman Leader’s Secret Weapon,” defines EI this way:

“Emotional intelligence is your ability to 1) identify and manage your own emotions; 2) pick up on the emotions of others and manage them; and 3) in so doing, build trust and grow influence.”

It is interesting to note that the author of the article was an FBI counterintelligence and undercover agent. This line of work may not seem conducive to using the soft skills and relying on feelings, but the author claims it helped her to be successful in this role.

Why does emotion in the workplace get a bad rep?

Part of the issue people have with emotions in the workplace is a preconceived notion that our emotional responses will be out of control or inappropriate. The internet does not help this impression with so many videos documenting terrible on-the-job behavior.

This bias around emotions at work can be harmful – especially in some of our most esteemed occupations. For example, historically, emotions are not encouraged in the medical profession. For years, med school students have been trained to hold an emotional distance from their patients. The prevalent thought being that those who stay detached emotionally will have a clearer head while treating the patient’s illness. Emotions might cloud their judgment.

This pressure to remain very clinical and form no visible attachment has taken its toll on doctors and nurses. Suppressing natural emotions is very difficult and unhealthy for the care giver and those receiving care.

There are studies on the healing process that now show a stronger emotional bond with a patient can be of great benefit to them. In an article titled, Should We Train Doctors for Empathy?, neuroscientist, Jean Decety of the University of Chicago states the following:

“The most critical aspect of healthcare is that patients perceive that their doctors care about them. Doctors should not be afraid of their emotions.” The article goes on to disclose job dissatisfaction and burnout are more prevalent in those who do not show concern for their patients.

Judges, too, are expected to have an unbiased and unemotional view of their court proceedings. This emotionally distant perspective is not the best approach since courtroom decisions and rulings involve such complex, human-based factors.

Judges and their decisions are better served when they are vigilant regarding non-verbal cues and extenuating circumstances. If they were to rule by words alone and not see or hear a defendant or plaintiff tell their story, their outcomes would be very different. Picking up on auditory and visual cues and displaying empathy are part of our emotional intelligence skills. This is demonstrated by a well- known judge from Rhode Island named Frank Caprio.

Judge Caprio has become a bit of a celebrity on the internet. This 80-year old magistrate deals out justice with an amazing amount of compassion and empathy. Not something often witnessed from a man in this position. He asks defendants contextual questions and inquires as to the person’s life situation at the time of the offense. His courtroom can be a very emotional place and often one filled with laughter. His manner of dealing out justice shows an extremely high EQ.

Logical versus emotional workforce

The workplace has changed tremendously since around 1975 with the advancement of computer science. Beginning in 1980 the ironically-named ‘personal computer’ changed the office space forever and created new jobs while eventually replacing a large portion of the workforce. Over time, jobs that were labor intensive or that required deeper calculations and spot-on accuracy have continued to be absorbed by robots and microchip technologies.

So where do emotions fit in?

“We have now accepted after 60 years of AI that the things we originally thought were easy, are actually very hard and what we thought was hard, like playing chess, is very easy.

– Alan Winfield, Professor of robotics at UWE, Bristol

What businesses and computer programmers have wrestled with throughout the computer revolution is that machines are not equipped with emotional intelligence. It would be very difficult to program a computer to solve a labor dispute or diffuse a stress-induced stalemate. Skills that are innate in ‘flawed’ human beings are, so-far, unattainable in computerized counterparts. This innate humanity is what gives us a leadership edge in the workplace.

People are not machines

“As machines become more and more efficient and perfect, so it will become clear that imperfection is the greatness of man.”

– Ernst Fischer

With the continuing advancement of computers and artificial intelligence taking over the lion’s share of logical and rote processes, emotional intelligence has even more value in the workplace. Humans react with instinct and emotion, and thus far, technicians have not been able to program those traits into an artificial worker. As we age we gain more life experience and we can continue to grow our EQ and become even better leaders.

The need for EI in the workplace became even more pronounced with the start of automation in the workplace. For example, the Ford Motor Company was one of the pioneers in bringing automation to the car industry in 1961. Lower-level workers were replaced by machines that could do work precisely and in endless repetition. While this revolutionized the car industry one element did not change – management and top-level leadership could not be substituted for a machine counterpart. Job experience, creativity, motivation, vision and organizational awareness – uniquely human attributes – were still necessary to make the kind of decisions that could move the company forward. It was precisely the skills provided by our feelings and emotions that kept their leadership in their positions.

All EI leaders are not considered equal

A lot of documented evidence reveals gender bias in the workplace where emotional expression is involved. There is a marked imbalance when it comes to perceptions of emotion shown by women versus the same emotion shown by men in leadership positions.

A study by the University of California, Riverside suggests that women are considered more effective leaders when they manage their negative emotions. Men were given more leeway when expressing negative emotions. And negative expressions more adversely undermined leaders in low-level management than those in in top positions.

We still have a long way to go to break down old stereotypes. The opinion continues to exist that emotion is a feminine trait. Yet, both men and women express emotion in all occupations. Anyone who watches professional sports (what are predominantly very masculine occupations like a football player) has seen grown men cry after winning or losing an important game. No one questions their ability to play the sport after witnessing this display of raw emotion.

Our differing emotional level of expression may come from our childhood experience. EI starts forming from the time we were very young. As children, we were instructed in what was acceptable and expected of us. Boys were told to ‘man-up’ and not to cry. Girls were coddled and portrayed as weaker sex. Our role models on TV and in the movies were the damsel in distress and the savior prince.

Centuries of childbearing and childrearing may have actually given women an EI advantage. Being tuned-in to the needs of a baby growing to adulthood has been essential to human survival. Specifically, staying tuned-in to children’s emotions helps to nurture and support them. This ability to zero-in on non-verbal cues when determining the right course of action transfers as a prized ability in the workplace.

Should we show emotion in the workplace?

“Past research shows the emotions of a leader affect performance of followers. The leader’s emotions are contagious, spread throughout the team, and affect effectiveness of the whole group.”

– Thomas Sy, Organizational Psychologist

Is it okay to show emotion in the workplace? The short answer is – yes! Emotional Intelligence involves the awareness of and ability to manage one’s emotions and reactions appropriately, while interacting empathetically with others. In workplace surveys, EI ranks highly as a successful leadership trait.

We thrive when our emotional needs are satisfied. Finding the balance of strong emotional understanding with effective training and guidance for your employees will set you apart as sought after leader and a true example of good management. It is up to each one of us to embrace all sides of our authentic selves and express who we really are. It takes courage.

Modelling emotional intelligence on the job

Allowing emotions and feelings to be a part of our daily work (and home) lives can help us find satisfaction and success. Here are a few practices to bring your EI skills to work:

  • Listen openly and demonstrate an understanding of the concerns of others
  • Have an awareness of how you and others make decisions and handle stress
  • Actively see the value in the perspectives of others
  • Appreciate the diverse gifts, experience and talents of your coworkers
  • Resolve conflicts by finding common ground
  • Look beyond words to the context, emotions and subtext of conversations

Intelligence and logic are only one side of a fully developed leader. Thoughtfully engaging our emotions on the job will help to create a workplace where everyone can thrive. That is the mark of a true leader.

#JuliGeskepeer, #FeelingSuccess, #2022success, #successinanyarena, #successfulleaders, #beauthentic, #empathy, #emotionalintelligence, #thewholeperson, #leadership, #juligeskepeerauthor, #emotionalquotient, #realconnection


A Book to Cultivate the Leader in YOU!

Are you curious to learn how engaging all the senses that can provide support for your journey to success? Please take a moment to explore my book, 5 Senses for Success: Strategies to Thrive in Any Arena. I am very proud to share these approaches and truly achievable practices that were born out of my own life and career experiences and strategic research. Each of us has it within us to achieve success and create healthier relationships within ourselves and with others

Follow this link for more information. https://juligeskepeer.com/5-senses-for-success

Juli Geske Peer is a leadership, relationship, and accountability strategist whose professional credentials include two academic degrees, mediator training, train-the-trainer certification, two coaching certifications, numerous other learning and certification accomplishments, and now, author!

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