The Organizational Cost of Low Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

The emotional climate of a workplace either supports or deteriorates performance. Ignoring this layer of the workforce reality is perilous because when emotional intelligence is low, it can result in very negative consequences to the organization’s bottom line. This week our CEO, Jerry Houston, discusses the real world impact of low EQ (Emotional Quotient) in our organizations. 

Many of the ways that low emotional intelligence affects a business are obvious, such as having managers’ time and energy diverted to dealing with emotion-driven conflict among team members.

The emotions with the most potential to cause negative repercussions in the workplace are ANGER and FEAR. When feelings are intense, it’s almost as if the brain is being held hostage by the emotion. Strong feelings like fear, anger and anxiety temporarily impair the ability to think rationally. The brain is wired to be on alert status from a threat of any kind, whether real or imagined. Anger and fear activate the brain’s fight, flight or freeze response, and it commonly takes as much as four hours for the person’s body to return to normal. In the meantime, the derailed person is not able to focus fully on work, depending on the intensity of the emotion.

When people are upset, they suffer from diminished cognitive abilities. Anyone who has ever struggled to stay focused after an emotional interlude at work can attest to this statement. The area of the brain that generates emotion floods the brain area in charge of executive functions, and as a result, attention, problem solving and access to memory are all impaired. A person’s planning and organizational abilities are diminished while in this state. Their ability to concentrate is all but gone as they deal with the distraction of trying to process their reactions and plan a response. Since logic and critical thinking are executive functions of the brain, the person’s ability to calm down is reduced as the emotional flooding continues. The longer the emotional flood gates are open, the more difficult it gets to get back on track.

An organization suffers the most lost productivity when a managers’ low EQ behavior impacts others exponentially within the organization. Leaders and managers have a more powerful influence on others, and they influence a wider range of people than rank and file team members have the potential to do. A managers’ ability to self-regulate and to empathize with others has the greatest potential to impact the organization for better or worse. If they are unable to manage their own emotions, their negative behavior saps the energy of the staff. When employees are the targets of anger and frustration, their abilities and motivation erode, lowering performance.

Here are some startling facts about Emotional Behavior at work: 

  • 34.5% have experienced being bullied.
  • 15.5% have witnessed someone else being bullied.
  • 49.6% have not been bullied or witnessed it.
  • 72.0% of bullies are BOSSES.

Statistics are taken from a Zogby International online survey of 2,092 adults on workplace bullying in August of 2010.

To Your Success!
Jerry Houston



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