Why developing the EQ or emotional intelligence of your people, can give you a competitive advantage.

The economic woes facing New Zealand over these past few years, has created a great deal of uncertainty. Confidence, that warm yet fuzzy emotional state is sadly lacking. Uncertainty usually leads to anxiety.

This increase in stress and anxiety is not only damaging for the individual but also for the company that employs them. Trivial conflicts in the workplace can escalate into something more serious, a calm and confident negotiator can become impatient, self centered and even worse, needy. A manager can appear more demanding and when under pressure, use bullying tactics without even being aware of the impact on staff.

On a subconscious level, people will feel they are in survival mode and their ability to consider the feelings of others deteriorates. For the old fashioned type of business leader, this can be an opportunity to drive people to work even harder and to take advantage of the fear people feel about losing their jobs.

Of course while there is this climate of fear, employees will tolerate behaviour from their managers that normally would be challenged, however once ‘confidence’ returns, you can expect employees to vote with their feet, so abuse your staff at your peril.

Often, even for those enlightened business leaders, the very last thing they consider during tough economic times, is to increase the budget for personal development.

Even those skills that can increase the chances of success and add to the bottom line, such as negotiation skills, proposal writing, pitching skills and time management are seen as ‘nice to have’. As for emotional intelligence training, forget it. A bit too new age and ‘touchy feely’ for many. And yet to ignore the role and impact of emotions in the workplace is naive.

Employing individuals with a highly developed EQ ensures they have a greater degree of self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation, are able to handle higher levels of stress and are generally more effective and productive.

On the other hand workers who display an inability to keep their emotions in check can result in issues that harm the individual’s career and damage the reputation of the organisation.

So here’s yet another challenge for those of us in HR, because it’s no longer enough to look at just a person’s experience or educational background. We need to hire individuals who are emotionally able to withstand the pressures of the job and high levels of personal interaction.

When you consider that New Zealand has the 2nd highest levels of stress and anxiety in the world (USA is No.1) it proves that we have some work to do. Perhaps having a high EQ, isn’t so touchy feely after all. In fact we believe it can give your business a competitive advantage.

Al Dickman HumanROI Partner

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