As more and more process oriented jobs become automated, it should be no wonder that social skills will become more and more important over time. In a study by Harvard economist David Deming on workplace tasks over the last 40 years, he found that the importance and value placed on social skills increased by 24% while technical know-how and traditional intelligence driven tasks effectively stagnated.
So when it comes to emotional intelligence, what are some of the most common faux pas that people are guilty of?
Summarising concepts discussed by Dr Travis Bradberry, the below are three of the most destructive personality traits that are often encountered in a workplace.
Frightened and fearful
The yes man is often someone desperate to please and reluctant to draw attention to themselves. The problem is that often in being driven by fear, people become paranoid, suspicious and reluctant to collaborate, often unintentionally resorting to irrational and damaging behaviour. Quick to blame others to shift attention away from themselves and mask their own weaknesses, these people often fall victim to group-think and will avoid speaking up about things gone wrong, not wanting to ruffle the feathers of those whose approval they desperately crave. In wanting to see the best in those they admire, these individuals are also often submissive and as such can be the most gullible and apologetic.
Down in the dumps
Sometimes life is hard, sometimes struggles get the better of you. But for this persistent pessimist, something is always wrong. Always a victim of their circumstances, they willingly surrender their free-will to others so that when things go wrong, they have someone else to blame. While they do have a unique skill in often being able to spot a problem a mile away which can be great when you need a conservative opinion, they are the worst people to have around when you’re trying to build morale and excitement or to create something new and slightly risky.
Arrogant and aggressive
Where the frightened and fearful individual will do everything in their power to stay hidden in plain sight, the arrogant and aggressive will do whatever they can to come across as powerful and intimidating as possible. The more exaggerated these personality traits, the more insecure someone probably is. The arrogant person hides behind a fake confidence and if challenged will likely meet you with condescension or aggression as an attempt to scare you off before you have a chance to pull their point of view to pieces. The biggest problem with this personality trait is an unwillingness to examine what they do and don’t know, often leading to underperformance relative to other team members. The resident hot head, they often struggle to control their emotions and often lash out when things aren’t going their way.
So what next?
If you are a leader and recognise any of these personality traits in your team, ask yourself what you can do to stop enabling it. For example, if you have a group of people too scared to voice their opinions, look at ways to change how opinions or feedback might be shared. You may want to start having people submit their points of view before a meeting to avoid group think or to make ideas anonymous so that they can be more objectively voted on. Similarly, as the leader, you need to set an example that tells the group that aggressive and manipulative behaviour simply won’t be tolerated.
If you found yourself identifying with any of the above, take a deep breath. It’s ok, you haven’t committed career suicide. But you have identified room for improvement in an area that may have been holding you back until now. If you’ve been too scared to voice your opinions or are too eager to please, try communicating your ideas in a less confrontational way such as by email or discussing them with a trusted colleague before presenting them to the team. If you find yourself lashing out at a colleague, ask yourself why you got defensive. Could there be something you could learn from them and you’re feeling threatened? Similarly, if you feel like life is never going your way, consider sitting with your boss and discussing opportunities for improvement where you’re in control. Baby steps is often all you need to build your confidence and help you take control of your career direction.