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Emotional Intelligence at WorkReview - Emotional Intelligence at Work
The Untapped Edge for Success
by Hendrie Weisinger, Ph.D.
Jossey-Bass, 1998
Review by Neal Gardner
Nov 16th 1999 (Volume 3, Issue 46)

Weisinger, the author of Anger at Work, has divided this work into two parts: Part one deals with ways to recognize and get in touch with our own individual feelings, being aware, distinguishing between sensory data and appraisals, etc., while part two deals with the application of this knowledge in the workplace. The appendix includes a way of scoring your own emotional intelligence to discover which competencies need improvement. The goal is an emotionally healthy work environment full of "shiny, happy people." Definitely falling into the category of management theory, this work shows how difficult going into management these days is. One must be part social worker, psychiatric nurse, psychologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, and crisis interventionist.

The goal of this book is not served by just reading it and just putting it away on the shelf. It is abundant with tips and exercises that may become valueless unless they are remembered and acted upon. Otherwise, they degenerate into mere adages. Many principles of cognitive therapy form the basis of these ideas. Weisinger shows how unclear thinking habits such as irrational thinking, mental filters, generalizations, etc., distort our perceptions of events and prevent clear communication.

Weisinger has analyzed the real process of communication and taken a microscope to it. Reading this, I was struck by the real difficulties in effectively guiding others in getting the job done. So many elements figure into the equation that failure of any one of them can cause the process to go awry. The learned skills of sensitivity, dynamic listening, skillful criticism, assertiveness, all work together to ease the sharing of ideas and feelings.

The latter part of the book distresses me somewhat. Being a manager in the workplace seems almost to be the domain of psychiatric nursing. One is walking on eggshells all the time. The manager is expected to be responsible for the emotional well-being of employees. It seems to me hiring a live-in mental health counselor of some sort or another would be better. Is the employee someone to be manipulated with behavioral therapy techniques? Do we really have to get this far into it? If this is true, most employees have learned the wrong lessons in life. Maybe this is the point.

It appears to me we are attempting to quash any individuality by following some of these precepts. Any negativity must be rooted out. It reminds me of the first job I ever had. I washed dishes at Connor’s restaurant on Telegraph Avenue in Detroit. Part of my job included sweeping up and mopping the dining area. I remember the first (and probably the last) time I did it. The owner of the restaurant happened to be standing there while I was mopping the floor. "Put a smile on your face when you’re working out here." I believe I asked him why and he told me in so many words that the customers wanted to see smiles. He was lucky I didn’t throw the mop at him. Apparently, in today’s world it is not enough just to do your job anymore, either. Not all of us are as forthcoming with communication of our feelings and thoughts. Although I am in full support of the principles of emotional intelligence on an individual basis, somehow it puts me off when we start treating employees like Pavlovian dogs, to be guided carefully down the path to workplace righteousness by dispensation of the appropriate emotional biscuits.

Nevertheless, as a guide to EI at work, this book is excellent. If one is wading through an emotional minefield, I guess that knowing where the mines are is better than ignoring them; knowing how to defuse them gently, even better.

Neal Gardner has an associate degree in medical secretarial technology and another in health services management. He is also a musician and a consumer of mental health services.


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