Nobody expects their manager to have a doctorate in psychology,
but a certain amount of emotional intelligence and sensitivity can
go a long way. The bad manager, of course, entirely lacks these
qualities, piling work upon the most over-strained employees and
not realising that the fact their head of marketing hasn't produced
a quite up-to-scratch report this week coincides with the fact that
she hasn't spoken much for the last few days, and certainly doesn't
take the time to find out that this is because her mother has just
died suddenly and she and everyone in the office would be better
off if she was given a week off to absorb the news.
That's because the bad manager holds the misconception that having even the smallest degree of emotional intelligence would mean reading hundreds of self-help books and taking evening classes that combine ashtang yoga with childhood-trauma-sharing. The bad manager doesn't realise that, in fact, all it takes to begin improving their understanding of employees is a couple of minutes conversation with them every day, and the very simple question: "How are you?"
And keeping your eyes peeled and your ears open around the office doesn't hurt either. Being able to read tensions and affiliations in the workplace helps you structure your team more efficiently by grouping together the people who like each other. A happy team equals a productive team.
Saying that, you don't necessarily want to play to spats and petty dislikes in the office, dividing people up so that emotional gulfs only widen. If you sense tension or a complete lack of interaction between a pair of employees, organise team building exercises that place them together, so that they can get to know each other better. And try to avoid the bad manager's crass pitfall of a complete lack of subtlety. Declaring to the office that Martin and Shelly are going to be paired up because they never talk to each other really isn't going to open up that atmosphere of unembarrassed friendliness you're aiming for.
But then bad managers always do lack tact - one of their most critical failings being a failure to show empathy. Even the most established of employees can feel their bowels loosening when they're called into the office and can't read their boss's mood. It's only the very worst of managers who fails to recognise when a joke or reassurance is needed to put the person they're talking to at ease - the ease which would in turn lead to a more confident and open discussion of problems and ideas.
There is hope, though. A good-manager-in-waiting is one who recognises they lack emotional intelligence, but wants to do something about it. Reading a book on body language and emotional signs is an easy and productive place to start.
And that 10 minutes spent on a new chapter each day has an amazing two-fold advantage that extends beyond just employee management. Because if you can read the emotions of the people you're pitching to and having meetings with, you stand an infinitely better chance of acting in the way that's likely to get them to buy into your idea and want to work with your business. Not to mention the happier employees and better-structured and more productive team that'll help convince them.
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