Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: Case Study

Powerful Essays
How Do You Feel?
"Emotional intelligence" is starting to find its way into companies, offering employees a way to come to terms with their feelings -- and to perform better. But as the field starts to grow, some worry that it could become just another fad.
From: Issue 35| June 2000 | Page 296 By: Tony Schwartz Illustrations by: Cynthia Von Buhler

Appreciation, apprehension, defensiveness, inadequacy, intimidation, resentment. Twenty midlevel executives at American Express Financial Advisors are gathered in a room at a conference center outside Minneapolis. Each has been asked to try to convey a specific emotion -- by reading a particular statement aloud. The challenge for listeners is to figure out which emotion each speaker is trying to evoke. It seems like a relatively straightforward exercise but only a fraction of the group comes anywhere close to correctly identifying speakers' emotions.
"I sometimes wish I had a corporate decoder for each relationship," one woman laments. "It's very hard to know what people are feeling in my office and how I should respond." Her comment prompts a discussion about the difficulty in the workplace of finding a balance between reasonable openness and respectful discretion.
"When one of my direct reports starts talking to me about her medical problems, I don't want to be unsympathetic, but it makes me very uncomfortable," says a male department head. "I find myself joking by saying to her, 'Too much information.' But I'm not really sure how to get the message across."
Conversations like that one, focusing on the importance of emotions in the workplace, are occurring with greater frequency in all kinds of American companies. Inside American Express, training sessions on emotional competence take place at the Minneapolis facility several dozen times a year. An unlikely pioneer in the field of emotional competence, AmEx launched its first experimental program in 1992. An eight-hour version of the course is now required of all of its new financial advisers, who help clients with money management. During a four-day workshop, 20 participants are introduced to a range of topics that comprise an emotional-competence curriculum, including such fundamental skills as self-awareness, self-control, reframing, and self-talk.
Much of that material represents new territory for these bu...

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... about the different forms that a drive to succeed can take? Does, say, an executive exhibit the core qualities of emotional intelligence, such as self-awareness, self-control, and empathy? Goleman acknowledges that many top executives currently lack those competencies, which will, he argues, be increasingly more critical to success in the decade ahead, as the competition for talent escalates and hierarchical structures continue to break down. "A coercive style of leadership is a negative driver on every measure of climate in a company," he says. "Bosses who lead by coercion are the kinds of bosses whom people hate."
As a practical matter, the Goleman-Boyatzis-Hay approach has focused less on training emotional intelligence than on addressing specific deficiencies in those competencies. Boyatzis's work has been influential: At Case Western, he developed an elegant, comprehensive, highly successful approach to training competencies in graduate students, as well as in executives. His model blends work on deepening self-awareness ("the real self"), defining one's values ("the ideal self"), and implementing one's goals (changing specific behavio
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