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Practical Application: Handling Workplace Situations with Emotional Intelligence

Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

Read this to see how a manager with high emotional intelligence handles different workplace situations that come up such as cases of sexual harassment and project delays.

Workplace Situations

When you work with a group of people with different personalities, you're bound to have some things come up. These situations need to be taken care of properly so that they don't cause bigger problems. Having high emotional intelligence is paramount to handling these kinds of issues appropriately. Emotional intelligence, also known as EI or EQ, is the ability to understand, display, and facilitate correct emotions.

In this practical application lesson, you'll read through a few scenarios about how Bob, a manager at a small tech shop that makes software programs for teachers, handles workplace issues. After each scenario is explained, you'll read through a series of questions about how Bob can handle each situation using EI, and then we'll play out the scenario for you. However, take some time to write down your responses to the questions before you read through how each scenarios plays out. Then compare your notes to see how your response to the situation aligns with Bob's.

Two Employees Arguing

An employee comes to Bob and starts bad-mouthing another employee. Obviously, the two employees have been arguing. About what, Bob doesn't know.

  • How can this scenario be handled with emotional intelligence?
  • Should Bob discipline the worker who is bad-mouthing another employee?
  • Should Bob discipline the worker who is being bad-mouthed?
  • Should Bob join in on the badmouthing if he agrees with the employee who comes to him?
  • Is it important for Bob to understand why the employees are arguing?
  • Should Bob get involved in this dispute? Why or why not?

Let's take a look at how Bob handles the situation.

At first, Bob thinks of threatening both employees with being fired for arguing at work and disrupting the workplace, but he realizes this isn't the most productive way of handling the situation, nor the most positive way. Instead, he reacts with emotional intelligence.

Bob starts by collecting information. He asks well-phrased questions of his employees to find out what is going on. It turns out his employees have had a disagreement as to how a certain code should be written. Words were exchanged and now one employee feels the other insulted his intellect.

Bob decides to sit both employees down and act as the mediator. He asks each employee to see if any of the accusations are really valid. The employee who is accused of insulting the other says she didn't mean to belittle him. What she meant was that there was a cleaner way of writing the code that she wanted to show the coworker, but the coworker refused so she wanted to get a point across. After talking, the employees agreed there was a misunderstanding. They apologized to each other and went back to work.

Project is Delayed

A project the company is working on has suddenly been delayed. It is clear that the project cannot easily be completed by the required deadline.

  • How can this scenario be handled with emotional intelligence?
  • Should Bob insist that his employees work harder and longer hours to meet the deadline?
  • Should Bob move the deadline back to give the team more time to work on the project?
  • If Bob changes the deadline, should he frame it as a positive, negative, or neutral change?
  • Should Bob discipline the team for missing the deadline or motivate them to move forward?

Let's see what Bob chooses to do.

Bob's first reaction is to panic and make everyone rush to fulfill an impossible deadline. But this will only frustrate the whole team and possibly bring a negative opinion from the public. Instead, he goes to the public relations department to work with them to create a campaign explaining why the deadline has been moved back. He uses re-framing to bring out the positive aspects of the change. He then reassures his team to give them the emotional and psychological boost they need to continue working.

Employee Asks for Pay Raise

An employee comes to Bob to ask for a pay raise. The employee says she feels that her wage doesn't reflect the experience she brings to the company. This employee is valuable, but Bob doesn't have the funds to give her a raise.

  • How can this scenario be handled with emotional intelligence?
  • Should Bob give her the raise to keep her happy even though the company can't afford it?
  • Should Bob simply tell her to wait until she is offered a raise?
  • Should Bob explain to her why he can't give her a raise?
  • Is there anything else Bob can do to make her happy without giving her more money?

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