Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Get up for work or hit the snooze button?

Do your people love or hate their jobs? How long will they stay?

When the alarm buzzes to get you up for work, what’s your reaction?  Do you open your eyes to a world of endless possibilities or do you hit the snooze button and contemplate calling in sick?  What do you think your employees do?

The people you work with, your work environment and your own emotional intelligence will influence what we do.  If our work place is filled with anxiety, anger and fear then we are unlikely to wake up full of enthusiasm.  We’ll more likely hit ‘snooze’ than leap out of bed ready to take on the world.

On the other hand, what if people at our workplace, especially managers, respect and understand of the role of emotions and conduct themselves in tune with the concepts of emotional intelligence (EQ)?

It is a statement of the obvious but managing people is essentially about understanding and managing emotions: our own, our employees and our colleagues.  That’s EQ. If EQ is missing, especially in managers, then the price is likely to be high - dwindling commitment, productivity, profits and high staff turnover.

Lousy managers are often victims of The Almond Effect®

Managers or leaders with low EQ and a low capacity to manage their reactions are often at the mercy of The Almond Effect®.  This is when our emotional centre, the amygdala, reacts to everyday situations as though our lives absolutely depended on it.  Maybe it is more aptly described as over-reacting. From an organizational perspective, this can be immensely damaging. 

For example, you probably know someone like, let’s call him, Rick. He is a manager who likes things done his way.  He is results focussed and has little time for alternative approaches to his way of doing things.  He has the final say on decisions to do with his team and he doesn’t like being challenged.  Does this conjure up a picture of anyone for you?

During one meeting, a member of his team offered her opinion on how things could be run more efficiently within the team. Rick didn’t like the idea simply because it went against his own.  He shot down the idea but then the rest of the team agreed with her.  Rick felt backed into a corner and became angry and upset.   He refused to hear any more on the topic.

Are you surprised that Rick’s team is often reduced due to mysterious sick days?  And what do you think the chances are in future for creative and innovative input from the team?

Cruelly our reaction often brings on the very thing we are afraid of

I think Rick’s heavy-handed reaction to his team likely stems from his emotional memories.  As a member of a competitive family, he always had to fight to get his ideas accepted. It was the same at the school he went to. And when his ideas weren’t taken up, he always felt miserable, left out and missing out on the accolades.

Rick noticed in his previous roles that his teams were not particularly innovative but he didn’t think it was to do with him. It was because they were so busy! His current team soon realised that every time his ideas were questioned or challenged, he became over sensitive and reacted aggressively.  So they now simply keep their mouths shut.

Why do people refuse to listen to other ideas?

Rick has a deep-seated fear of not being respected and major doubts about his self worth and the value of his input.  His amygdala interprets this as a threat to his job and so to his survival. In an ironic twist, his fear translates into aggression that brings about the very reaction he is afraid of: lack of respect, no new ideas to get runs on the board and his job on the line. His aggressive behaviour is the result of his brain’s survival instinct kicking in and manifests as being closed to the team’s input.
In the workplace, aggression is a potent and paralysing emotion that can render even the most rational person inept.  It is often an irrational reaction triggered by your emotional memory. But the price is high.

If you are having difficulties retaining employees, check the emotional pulse of the organisation, starting with managers and team leaders...and yourself.