“My boss has no emotional intelligence”

Illustration of a group of people represented by different colours and geometric shapes.

You’ve heard it, in fact you may have even said it: “my boss (co-worker, etc.) has no “emotional intelligence.” The problem is that the statement is incorrect. Everyone has some emotional intelligence. I know this because we are social and emotional beings who navigate our environment with the assistance of our emotions. But the statement in question reflects the larger problem of the term emotional intelligence not being well understood and therefore not fully leveraged.

For some, the term “emotional intelligence” is pesky. I get it. It has that word “emotional” in it and being emotional has a bad reputation in our society – let alone in business.

However, some of the most effective organizations on the planet base their employee development programs on emotional intelligence because successful business is based on such emotions as passion, inspiration, loyalty, trust, and commitment.

Google, Amazon, Nike, and Microsoft base their leadership development programs on the concept of emotional intelligence. The World Economic Forum has a top ten employment skills for 2020 list: emotional intelligence is one of the skills and it could be argued that several other listed skills are actually emotional intelligence skills.

Part of the challenge is there are many mistaken beliefs about emotions. One widely held belief is that you must be ‘weak’ to show emotion – to be emotional. And how can you be ‘intelligent’ about something as ambiguous and uncertain as emotions? I call the term a blessing and a curse.

It’s a blessing because it accurately describes how the parts of our brains actually work together – our brains process a complex mixture of emotion, perception and reason and in this sense there really isn’t any other kind of intelligence other than emotional intelligence. It’s a curse because as a society we’re not great at emotions and we are encouraged to avoid and deny emotions. And because of this, we’ve focussed on cognitive intelligence in a way that excludes or pretends to ignore the ways in which our brains are intelligent about emotions.

We see the effects of this cultural inertia in the way we raise children. We don’t do a great job of teaching our kids how to recognize and understand their own emotions. And as adults we still have all the symptoms of lacking advanced intelligence about emotions, which include misunderstanding, lack of trust, poor communication, dysfunctional relationships, toxic teams, bullying, abuse, violence, and war.

At EITC, the resistance we encounter to the concept of emotional intelligence is something we’ve become accustomed to. But it’s also mystifying. The ability to use information that comes from our emotions and from the emotions of others is indispensable. Improving EI can improve personal management, communication, relationships with others, and leadership.

Yes, people can become more adept at recognizing, acknowledging, articulating and effectively managing emotions. We can help with this!

What do you think? Leave your comments below.

What is emotional intelligence?

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