I read a newspaper article today commenting on how employers are currently seeking and recruiting for staff who have ‘likeability’ as well as technical ability in their field. The description of traits linked to ‘likeability’ fell very much into the domain of what Daniel Goleman labelled Emotional Intelligence in his 1994 book of the same name. Goleman had the same conclusion as the newspaper article; organisations want employees who get on with others, have a positive approach, are good to be around and get the job done. Good social skills, empathy for others and a level of self-awareness are important traits for developing and maintaining effective relationships in and out of work.
Recently we have been working with a couple of organisations on projects to develop staff awareness and skills in Emotional Intelligence, to build workplaces where people are engaged and where performance is high. As part of this work we have heard many stories from employees about people at all levels who displayed a lack of emotional intelligence, resulting in lower morale and productivity for those working with them. Some of the behaviours people disliked included:
- Managers and staff with large mood swings so people feel like they are ‘walking on eggshells’. “From one day to the next you never know whether to approach them or not and what kind of reception you will get, so you end up avoiding them” was one comment.
- Shouting and aggressive behaviour.
- Managers giving feedback in front of the other team members or in a public place. “The manager corrected me in front of a customer and I was humiliated” said one person. It made her not want to work with customers or the manager again.
- People who don’t interact with others or participate in the social niceties of the office such as not saying good day or hello and acknowledging others. Many of us have parents or guardians who would call this a lack of manners!
- Team members who don’t do their fair share either in the work of the team or in office protocols. “We have one person here who never washes up their cup and plates, leaves them in the office sink and expects everyone else to do it. They get annoyed when we ask them to take their turn, so we end up not asking them and being resentful!” was one example of this.
- People who are negative about most things. “This person is cynical about almost everything that happens and it is depressing and tiring to be around them,” commented one team member.
On the positive side, the following examples of good use of emotional intelligence were provided:
When we work in the public sector our role is to support and provide service to a range of stakeholders. This includes serving the public, the Parliament, our Minister and the government of the day, our cluster/agency, other organisations and our colleagues. We are responsible for providing relevant, responsive and quality service and we do this in a way which reflects our core values. While every agency and Department is different, the NSW public sector has some common principles we all work with which make it a good place to work and to receive service from. Learning how it all works can make the transition to the public sector easier.
Many roles in the public sector require a good understanding of how government works and how to work with stakeholders both – both internal and external – to our organisation. It is important that employees know what each of the three layers of government – local, state and federal- are responsible for and how they interact. Knowing about the roles and responsibilities of individuals, committees and other groups in government provides people with the context for some of their work, such as writing Ministerials, briefing notes, developing policy or communicating with the Minister’s Office.
The NSW Public Service Vision is to have a highly capable public sector workforce characterized by a culture of integrity, trust, service and accountability. Often organisational values are great slogans on the walls or in corporate documentation. To make them “living values” every employee must be able to translate them to actions they carry out in their own role. This is an important component of how the government will achieve the 2021 goals.
Are your people leaders equipped to deal with the “greyer” areas of inappropriate workplace behavior in order to prevent bullying and harassment?
There seems to be ongoing change for many of us at the moment. For all of us there is a change of government that some will like and some will not. A number of our clients are implementing changes to the way they deal with clients and customers and others are undergoing restructures. At a personal level we currently have a friend changing jobs and another who has made some big changes in their career. One of us has moved from a spacious house to a smaller unit and another is looking at buying their first property. Interestingly even when we seek out and drive some of these changes it can take some time to readjust and at times be frustrating and unsettling. When change is forced upon us and is not what we wanted it can be pretty tough to cope with.