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It's All in How You See It! (Part 5 of 5) EQ (Emotional Intelligence) and the New Workplace

By Michael E. Rock, Ed.D. |

"The rushed existence into which industrialized, commercialized man has precipitated himself is actually a good example of an inexpedient development caused entirely by the competition between members of the same species. Human beings of today are attacked by so-called managerial diseases, high blood pressure, renal atrophy, gastric ulcers, and torturing neuroses: they succumb to barbarism because they have no more time for cultural interests." -- Konrad Lorenz1

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved.2

A happy employee will stick with the company, give better service to the customer and recommend company products to others, writes Sue Shellenbarger in The San Francisco Examiner. A study by Sears Roebuck has found that "if employee attitudes on 10 essential counts improve by 5 per cent . . . customer satisfaction will jump 1.3 per cent, driving a 0.5 per cent rise in revenue."3

For many employees, today's workplaces are not happy places.4 While there is no direct correlation between happiness and productivity, there is an intuitive and practical sense that if employees are satisfied, and generally happy with what they are doing and the context of their workplaces, productivity will occur. What we do know from research on work motivation is that "people exert work effort to achieve performance and receive work-related outcomes."5 Employers have an ideal combination when employees experience happiness as the result of worthwhile work, rewards, relationships, and positive workplace dynamics.

There will always be a discussion of the relative importance of nurture vs. nature, or of the environmental factors vs. an individual's personal make-up. However, today and tomorrow's workplaces may be dangerous to an employee's health! "Employees are so stressed by continuing uncertainty that mental health is suffering. Harvard's School of Public Health predicts that by 2020 depression will be responsible for more lost workdays in the developed world than heart disease."6

In this final article on EQ, we examine the motivational and general mood components of the EQ-i (Emotional Quotient-Inventory). In short, we will examine those factors that contribute to a feeling of well-being and are as essential to the make-up of emotional intelligence as the previous thirteen factors in Parts I-IV.

Take the following simple 12-item EQ self-test. Be honest with yourself.

Item QUESTION Yes(x) No(x)
1 Do you generally look on the brighter side of life?
2 Can you easily reframe or re-vision a "bad" experience?
3 Do you have effective strategies for handling rejection?
4 Do you manage adversity well?
5 Would others describe you as a positive person?
6 Can you see "the silver lining in most clouds"?
7 Are you generally satisfied with your life?
8 Would you say you are happy?
9 Do you enjoy yourself and other people?
10 Are you having wholesome fun in life right now?
11 Can you easily express positive feelings?
12 Would others describe you as a person with lots of drive?

How did you do?

High EQ types will consistently score between 10-12 almost every time.

The self-test (above) is a simple way to describe the motivational you. It is what the EQ-i (or Emotional Quotient-Inventory) calls the "General Mood EQ Scale."

People who score high on the general mood scale are people who are optimistic about themselves, life, life's events, and who are happy and satisfied with their lives. I have called this scale the motivational you because when we feel optimistic and happy in life, we are upbeat in our self-image. We also present ourselves to others at home and at work in a life-enhancing way. Might it be safe to say that "TGIF" (Thank God It's Friday) is really describing people's general mood and appreciation of their workplaces? If it is, then millions of employees may be saying that their happiness is really a delayed one: they only feel happy away from work. Has the modern workplace fostered a "weekend happiness syndrome"?

Southwest Airlines is noted as a workplace with satisfied employees. The airline is also a financial success story. Only employees whose general workplace mood is buoyant can pull off the following:

The flight attendants of Southwest Airlines are famous for making their passengers laugh, reports Scripps-McClatchy News. Some of their patter: "Ladies and gentlemen, we have a request that you stay in the aircraft at all times. . . . The flight crew will be offering you beverages and a snack later in the flight. If you need anything else, we'll be up front, gossiping and filing our nails."7

A sense of humour is central to a balanced life. That is why political correctness can be deadly. I am not talking here about not being "appropriate" in speech or inclusive in gender. Rather, we have to be very careful that our good intentions in the workplace and in society do not rob us of spontaneity and fun. Otherwise, we're setting ourselves up as a morose culture. Cesar Chavez, the organizer of fruit pickers in southern California,once mused: "When we're honest with ourselves, we must admit that our lives are all that really belongs to us." He then said that it is how we use our lives that determines what kind of people we are.8

Let's look at the 12 items again that make up the general mood EQ scale. There are 2sub-components to this motivational scale. They are listed below.

  • Items 1-6: Optimism. This EQ core competency allows individuals to "look on the brighter side of life." The insurance industry has to have sales people with markedly higher scores on this factor. Individuals with high optimism scores cope well with what life puts on their plate. They handle rejection well, and don't take it personally. They are secure in themselves and feel naturally cheerful about their lives. People would definitely not describe them as pessimistic. Murphy's Law is not a psychological part of their vocabulary.

    A striking example of this factor is the following remarkable story:

    33-year-old Karen Hartley found herself stranded in freezing temperatures and mountain snow as the night fell. She was in the mountains skiing at the Powder Mountain ski resort, Layton, Utah, on Christmas Eve. She skied down an ungroomed area, but missed meeting up with the snowcat that would take her back to the lodge. She was stranded. She knew it was either "dance or die."

    So what did she do? She knew her survival depended on her ability to be optimistic and upbeat about her perilous situation. She started to dance, sang familiar tunes in head, and did this all night -- dancing to stay warm and stay alive!

    Around 9:00am the next day, she heard a helicopter and said, "That's my ride."9

    Workplace application: One expression that can be used to describe the need for emotional intelligence and optimism in the new workplace is "the worker-resilient workplace."10 Some may be tempted to interpret this negatively, that is, that employers want their employees to do more with less. However, in looking at the "global tsunami of change"11 that has engulfed our world as the millennium breaks upon us, it will be those individuals who can be optimistic, who can cope with the images of the new workplace and who can handle their feelings who will succeed. It's not as though we have an option here. Change is not optional; however, our response to change is.

    Recommendation: If you are a manager, continue to foster a more positive atmosphere in the office. It's a truism to say that we all will feel "down" every now and then. But be careful that this state is not systemic in yourworkplace. A pessimistic workplace is a cancerous one; it drains energy from everyone involved. It's a question often of perception: if you think only the worst will happen, it generally does. Life gives as we put out. The expression "what goes around, comes around" is very apropos here. Positive people will attract positive people. A workplace with consistent negative feelings is costing you money lots of it. If you are an employee, remember that the attitude or outlook you bring into the workplace each day has an effect. I sometimes ask people to look in the mirror in the morning and begin smiling even if they don't feel like it. Do that until the feeling inside changes. Remember: a mood is a reality, albeit a psychic one. A bad mood is psychic poison; it pollutes the atmosphere; people around us will find it hard "to breathe." We become our own worst enemies. A genuinely optimistic person, on the other hand, realizes and accepts the relative importance of life's events. That person gives thanks for life's blessings, and transforms life's challenges.

  • Items 7-12: Happiness. This EQ core competency allows individuals to feel satisfied with life. They generally enjoy themselves and others. Dr. Reuven Bar- On, the psychologist who researched and designed the EQ-i, writes that happy people also "have fun and express positive feelings."12 Happy people are not depressed people. They do not spend their days worrying, being overly anxious and uncertain about their future. Happy people are involved in life. We see this with children, for instance, all the time. Time, for children, just "flies." That's because they are "right into life." It's a troubling sign of the times when one writer says that "happiness is ... a commodity available at the pharmacy."13 Obviously, there are a lot of unhappy people in our society and in our workplaces. Hindu and Buddhist philosophies have always encouraged people to transcend their desires as a key to happiness. Perhaps our modern pace of living with its emphasis on "having" rather than "being" is driving many people mad.acquisitiveness and unhappiness, it seems, have always gone hand in hand. "The gods, said Diogenes, gave man an easy existence, but man complicates it by itching for luxuries."14 A. C. Benson remarked one time, "I have known some quite good people who were unhappy, but never an interested person who was unhappy."15

    Workplace application: Today, more and more unhappy workers are voting with their feet. They are establishing their own businesses16 at a time when their skills may be critical to their company. Dissatisfaction with the workplace is one of the main causes of employees quitting their jobs in spite of the difficult circumstances of finding new work. Employees have consistently rated interesting work at or near the top of their list of priorities in the workplace for decades. In 1976, professor Kenneth Kovach wrote: "Research indicates that a wide gap still exists between what workers want from their jobs and what management thinks they want."17

    Recommendation: Do a "happiness audit" on yourself every now and then. Check whether you like yourself, whether you're pleasant to be with. Ask others to give you feedback as well. One manager I knew used his spreadsheet to create a simple tally: he put in a number from 1-10 ("10" being the highest) every day of the month, then averaged the numbers, graphed his results, and voila! He had his "monthly happiness index score"! I told him to do this every day and be as brutally honest as possible. When he saw his graphs - sometimes in 3-D - he was shocked. He said he had no idea he was this "down." I then had him check these audits against what others (spouse, friends, family, trusted colleagues) experienced with him. They confirmed his results. Our time together often became one of learning how to undo his daily thinking processes around events. We also discussed quality of life issues, the work-home balance, and the greater philosophical issues of life's meaning, where he saw himself in 10 years, and the answer to the following question: "If you knew you couldn't fail, what would you like to do?" That's a starting-point for each of us as well. It's all in how we see it.

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