The mythical idea of the exemplary, submissive, tireless and hyper-rational worker is finally coming to terms with reality. The study of neurobehavioral factors in seemingly unconnected fields such as economics and HR management has finally brought to light something that has always been simmering under the surface: that we are emotional beings, and that our emotional side never leaves us, even when we need to feel as rational and impersonal as possible, for example at the workplace.
As the concept of behavioural economics makes its way in the world of finance – just think of Matteo Motterlini and his Economia Emotiva (Emotional Economics) – work organisation and team leading techniques are giving large-scale importance to the role of “emotional intelligence”. Back in the 1990s, scientists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer wrote an article entitled Emotional Intelligence in which they spoke of “the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one's thinking and action”. A definition that was taken up, from 1995 onwards, by Daniel Goleman, psychologist, journalist and a relentless promoter of this particular relational skill.
We are not the rational, infallible calculators of so many economic models. Therefore, we should learn to channel our emotional component in a fruitful manner. Understanding and mastering our emotions brings a series of advantages, such as a more serene working environment, better collaboration between employees, and more effective strengthening of individual skills. Because – oddly enough – a motivated employee who can rely on optimal working conditions will actually work better.
Back in the 1990s, scientists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer spoke of “the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one's thinking and action
For this reason, over the years, the ability to understand people’s emotions has become one of the main qualities attributed to a successful leader. To this end, many complementary courses have emerged devoted to teaching and improving this skill, as confirmed in Professor Tarun Khanna’s paper entitled Contextual Intelligence, published in 2014 on the Harvard Business Review. The idea is to improve self-knowledge so as to understand how we – and, of course, others – would react in given situations, and how best to engage with others in such cases.
The parameters vary from model to model, but revolve around those identified by Goleman in 1995. The various work phases involved are: self-awareness, or the ability to understand your emotions and how they influence your actions; self-management, or the ability to direct your emotions in a useful manner; social awareness, or the ability to accurately read situations and people through the ability to understand and empathise with their emotions; and finally, managing and guiding relationships, so that they are as serene, transparent and effective as possible.
So, what are the steps to take for a company wishing to invest in Emotional Intelligence? The first thing to do is to try to step into the employees shoes. Useful measures include customised working hours, the recruitment of psychologists in HR teams, and increasingly targeted training. After all, we are human 24 hours a day, and not just in our spare time.