By now, most business owners are aware of emotional intelligence and its importance when it comes to successful performance management. But knowledge and practice are very different things, according to a new Ipsos Reid poll of managers and supervisors, commissioned by Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace.
It seems Canadians are absolutely on board with the idea of developing their emotional intelligence. In fact, 91% of supervisors polled say they recognize the importance of improving their emotional intelligence in the workplace and believe it's possible to do so. However, across all sectors, managers and supervisors reported having more challenges than strengths in the skill areas measured by the poll.
In particular, the survey took a close look at how managers respond to the emotional distress of their employees, how they understand and manage their own reactions, and how effectively they communicate and resolve conflicts. Only 1% assessed themselves as strong across all measured skill areas and 47% of respondents rated themselves as challenged in one or more of these skill areas.
Nearly one-third of supervisors surveyed had some challenges in the areas of communicating effectively and understanding their own emotional reactions, and more than half felt that whining or crying at work is a ploy to get attention.
Susan Jakobson, workplace health consultant, finds these results concerning. "Managers who are challenged in these skill areas can become the 'bosses from hell'—not because they're bad managers, but because they have no idea how they may impact employees who may be experiencing, or at risk of, mental-health issues." In these cases, Jakobson stresses, what a manager says and how they react to an employee's distress can make all the difference.
"We know the emotional intelligence of managers has an effect on the psychological health and safety of employees," says Mary Ann Baynton, program director of the centre. "Two out of three respondents indicate they could do their jobs more effectively if they could better manage distressed workers."
"The good news is there are ways to help managers develop these skills," say Baynton, including educational tools such as the centre's Managing Mental Health Matters program.