Avoidance of lawsuits cannot be the foundation for building a successful workplace diversity and inclusion program. Successful diversity management must go beyond simple compliance. The days of “check-box” diversity training are over, or at least they should be if organizations care about results and the effective use of resources. Stop wasting money on surface-level, inadequate DEI training that does not address culture and personal development.
Psychologist Daniel Goleman introduced the concept of “emotional intelligence” into the mainstream with his 1995 book. According to PositivelyPsychology.com, “Emotional intelligence is what we use when we empathize with our coworkers, have deep conversations about our relationships with significant others, and attempt to manage an unruly or distraught child. It allows us to connect with others, understand ourselves better, and live a more authentic, healthy, and happy life.” Goleman saw emotional intelligence as a vital factor in success and a skill in helping eliminate or decrease distracting and harmful behavior. We learned in 2020 how discrimination, especially racial inequity, could lead to worldwide disruption across many sectors. Many managers and business leaders were stuck and left asking the question, “Where do we start?”. They did not have the tools to even talk to those in their workplace about diversity and inclusion. So, we should see how practicing emotional intelligence in the workplace can positively impact reducing workplace discrimination, leading to a more productive, harmonious, and truly inclusive culture.
The five components of emotional intelligence are:
- Self-Awareness—is recognizing your own emotions, bias and how they affect your thoughts and behavior. You know your strengths and weaknesses and have self-confidence.
- Self-Management—those who are skilled in self-management tend to be flexible and adapt well to change. Those skilled at self-management are also good at managing conflict and diffusing tense or difficult situations.
- Motivation—is what drives us. Some are driven by external forces, and some by their internal drive. Self-motivation includes our drive to improve and achieve, commitment to our goals, initiative, or readiness to act on opportunities, and optimism and resilience.
- Empathy—is being able to sense and understand how others feel or how the culture emotionally impacts them. Some people are highly empathic, and some of us can seem cold and clueless. How we understand, and practice empathy is deeply rooted in our cultural understandings.
- Social Skills—being able to build relationships and interact well with others. In the workplace, we benefit from being able to develop a strong rapport with leaders and coworkers.
These skills benefit us in more heterogeneous groups, but emotional intelligence also helps us navigate diversity and leverage differences in a way that leads to more creative and productive work environments. There is no magic anti-bias or anti-discrimination pill we can take to be culturally competent. Creating an inclusive work culture takes practice and some good old human trial and error. We aren’t robots. As we look at our emotional intelligence, we cannot ignore our cultural paradigms’ impact. What is valued highly in one identity group may be an offense in another.
Managing and understanding our emotional intelligence is especially important in situations when we are under pressure. For example, when we are:
- Giving and receiving feedback
- Meeting tight deadlines
- Dealing with challenging relationships
- Not having enough resources
- Navigating change
- Working through setbacks and failure
- Cross-cultural/Intercultural engagement
While there is no validated psychometric test or scale for emotional intelligence and many argue that emotional intelligence is not an actual construct, it can be a way of describing interpersonal skills that go by other names. When building an inclusive workplace, we can usually tell when relationships are not “quite right.” You can measure productivity, turnover, work stoppages, sick-time use, and different aspects of diversity. Many signs point to a bad workplace culture even if you can’t measure culture or emotion themselves.
One of these reasons I designed Leadership Diversified was to help address the five components of emotional intelligence while helping leaders navigate, communicate, and collaborate with an increasingly diverse workforce. If you or your team need help managing employees of different races, religions, generations, abilities, languages, lifestyles, and genders click the link below. Learning to navigate and communicate across cultural differences can reduce tension and workplace disruption.
Managing employees of different races, religions, generations, abilities, languages, lifestyles, and genders can be challenging for employers. Learning to navigate and communicate across cultural differences can reduce tension and workplace disruption.