Likeability and Emotional Intelligence

Brains in Sync

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:

  • Managers who are even-handed and consistent in their approach.  As one staff member described it, “You know you will get a fair hearing with her and be able to anticipate how she will respond. She keeps pretty calm which is great.”
  • Having good social interactions with the team such as at meetings, coffee break chats, meeting for lunch etc.  One participant indicated he really looked forward to a regular Friday lunch with his team.  “It is a great time to catch up, have a laugh and hear about what they have been up to outside of the work environment.”
  • Getting praise for a job well done or a note of thanks for a special effort from managers and colleagues.  “It really makes my day when I get a thank you or praise for something, it feels like it is all worthwhile,” commented one employee.
  • Colleagues who help out and support each other.  One woman praised a colleague; “He could see I was snowed under and offered to help out to get it under control.  I really appreciated the help and it meant I didn’t have to stay back.  Now I am hoping to repay the favour”.
  • Managers and other staff who are approachable and assist you with problems.  People indicated that it is important to have good communication with their supervisor or manager, especially to be listened to.  Employees in customer service appreciated being able to debrief with their teammates after challenging customer interactions, which helped them lift their mood and lower stress levels.

As well as these characteristics, people who are ‘likeable’ in the workplace build people’s respect and trust.  Being ‘likeable’ is particularly important if you supervise and manage staff.  Self-awareness is critical to effective use of Emotional Intelligence – to understand ourselves and how our behaviours affect others and to care about our interactions with others. Many of the competences of Emotional Intelligence can be learned and they are implicit in the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated.  Wouldn’t that be a great place to work?

What are your experiences?  Which behaviours would you like to see in colleagues and managers?

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