By James V. D’Ambrosio

(This is the second in a series focusing on emotional intelligence)

Building on last column’s overview of emotional intelligence, the following research illuminates the effectiveness of employing emotional intelligence in the workplace. For those nonprofits continually struggling for time and resources, the following information can be helpful.

In an article titled “The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: Why it Matters More Than Personality,” Mike Poskey, vice president at Zero Risk Human Resources, Inc., a Dallas-based human resource risk management firm specializing in hiring and retention, discusses how emotional intelligence impacts the bottom line. He notes that many organizations concentrate selection criteria and employee training on the more established  worker attributes such as technical skills, industry knowledge, education, and personality assessment. Conversely, qualitative skills — stress management, assertiveness, empathy and political and social acumen — were not measured in selecting job candidates or in training and development. Ironically, the author argues that these [emotional intelligence] skills have proven to be critical factors for success: they directly impact the bottom line.

Poskey cites research supporting his assertions:

 ♦ A study of 44 Fortune 500 companies revealed that salespeople with high levels of emotional intelligence produced twice the revenue of those with average or below average scores;

♦ Technical programmers rating in the top 10 percent of emotional intelligence competency developed software three times faster than those with lower scores;

♦ A recent study by a Dallas-based corporation indicated that productivity was 20 times greater among workers with higher emotional intelligence scores as compared with those scoring low in emotional intelligence; and

♦ A large hospital reduced turnover of critical-care nurses from 65 to 15 percent within 18 months of instituting an emotional intelligence screening assessment.

When examining questions many supervisors ask — Why do some people cause conflict while others are adept at resolving it? Why do people put self-interest before organizational values and objectives? Why do some employees get into more accidents than others? — Roskey again points to emotional intelligence, offering this profile of the emotionally intelligent employee:

“An employee with high emotional intelligence can manage his or her own impulses, communicate with others effectively, manage change well, solve problems, and use humor to build rapport in tense situations. These employees also have empathy, remain optimistic even in the face of adversity, and are gifted at educating and persuading in a sales situation and resolving customer complaints in a customer-service role.”

Sandi Redman, an education manager at the National Telephone Cooperative Association, points to research from the Center for Creative Leadership indicating the top causes of failed leadership are associated with a lack of emotional intelligence:  a) an inability to manage change; b) inability to function well in teams; and c) a dearth of interpersonal skills. Conversely, it was found that six emotional competencies were often possessed by successful executives: influence, team leadership, organizational awareness, self-confidence, achievement drive, and leadership.

Redman notes that adult workers’ level of emotional intelligence can be improved through cognitive and emotional learning, as companies worldwide are investing training resources in emotional intelligence awareness and assessments to better educate their leaders. It is emphasized that learning success hinges on four important conditions: a) commitment from top management; b) a strong plan; c) skilled trainers; and d) a good learning environment.

QUESTION TO READERS: How has your organization used emotional intelligence to improve its operations?


By James V. D’Ambrosio

In the last few years I’ve heard numerous complaints from people in many circles about how poorly they have been treated by management. To be sure, some of that anger and frustration can be attributed to the severe recession, layoffs, and prolonged high unemployment. While there will always be friction between staff and management — ever been involved in contract negotiations? — it doesn’t help anyone to create further animosity. From a management perspective, there are things that can be done to improve relations with staff. To that end, I strongly endorse a supportive management style for nonprofits — and everyone else.

What is supportive management? First and foremost, it’s a genuine respect for ALL EMPLOYEES. It doesn’t matter whether someone sweeps the floor or directs human resources, each person deserves to be treated with respect and civility. Here are several ways to be a supportive manager and earn employees’ respect:      

MAKE YOURSELF AVAILABLE: Staff need to know they can turn to someone — often confidentially –when problems arise. Accomplish this by setting aside a block of time — perhaps several hours on Friday afternoon when things are winding down — where your door is literally ‘open’ for employees to discuss whatever is on their mind. Just knowing there is someone available for help makes people feel more comfortable and secure. And happier employees are less likely to complain, argue with co-workers, get caught up in minutiae, or spread damaging rumors. Ultimately they become more productive workers — something all managers want.

MAKE YOURSELF VISIBLE: Once a week, walk around the office, meet staff, and ask how they’re doing. Let people know they’re appreciated and thank them for work well done. This provides employees a sense of personal worth by validating their work. In addition, by being ‘out there,’ you’re less likely to be seen as detached and unapproachable — cloaked away in a corner office protected by a  cadre of gatekeepers. Whatever level of management you’re at, the organization benefits as a whole when you increase positive interactions with staff. (I’ve seen the director of my local library do this with great success — nearly every interaction has been positive, problems have been averted, and staff feel valued. Everybody wins.)      

MATCH YOUR MISSION: A supportive management style takes on greater significance for nonprofits. After all, if you want employees to embrace a higher calling and altruistic spirit, make it your business to display progressive leadership: avoid public criticism; encourage suggestions; remain calm amidst difficulties; admit mistakes; focus on the big picture; recognize others’ accomplishments; and strive to find the good in most things. An organization is only as good as the people in it. When managers keep the ‘human’ in human resources, everyone benefits.

QUESTION: What other supportive management techniques do you think are important?

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