Connection and community in the workplace have suffered a major setback since the onset of the pandemic. Remote work, quarantining, and mask-wearing just isn’t conducive to building relationships. And yet, this idea of relatedness is one of our most basic psychological needs.  As humans, we have an emotional need to socialize and build strong relationships with other people. When we connect well with others we feel like we belong. We also feel secure and even intrinsically motivated. But, if we’re unable to relate to those around us, we become anxious and stressed. How this manifests at work depends on personality type as we’ve explained before.  But the bottom line is that employee engagement and job satisfaction tanks when people can’t relate to others at work.

Now the fact that our mental health affects how we function at work isn’t new information. It’s just getting more attention now, thanks to the pandemic. COVID-19 upended a lot of our work norms. In particular, how we congregate and interact in order to build connection and community. And this inability to relate to others in a meaningful way is causing the emotional health of millions of employees to suffer. It’s encouraging, however, that many organizations are now looking for solutions. #mentalhealthrevolution 

This is great news because, to be honest, our emotional needs are like oxygen. Think about it like this. If you are using an oxygen machine, more than likely it’s not because it’s a nice-to-have. Now imagine if someone stepped on the tube and stopped the flow of air to your lungs. Would that oxygen be a ‘need’ or just a ‘want’? RIGHT. And just like our lungs need air, our human psyche needs to connect/relate to those we work with. So how do we encourage more relatedness at work? We do it by improving our emotional intelligence. 

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to read both the emotional and interpersonal needs of a situation and respond accordingly. The different personality types tend to think about and approach interactions with others based on certain mindsets. There are eight mindsets and each personality type can easily access the 3 closest to them on the DiSC map (see diagram). So the EQ strengths that come naturally to you, may be very different from your coworkers and or your boss, depending on their personality style. 

For example, the Dominant or ‘D’ type tends to be resolute, whereas the Influencer or ‘i’ style usually shows up as dynamic. The Steady or ‘S’ style is receptive, whereas the Conscientious or ’C’ style is objective. These mindsets are the ones they feel the most comfortable with; their normal go to’s in an emotional situation. The problem is that not all situations can be resolved with just the mindsets that come naturally to a person. And that’s where the idea of emotional agility comes in because to be agile you have to be able to access the other mindsets. 

Let’s say you work with an ‘i’ style. This teammate comes in every day with fresh ideas for a project that you are working on together. You are a ‘D’ style and want to stick with the approach the two of you agreed upon last week.  You knew the first time it was discussed that it was the right thing to do and you committed. Now you are resolute in your decision. Your teammate, however, has doubts. If the two of you are to work together successfully, you have to come to an agreement on how to move forward. This is where you might have to stretch or flex into a mindset that is less comfortable for you. If you can look objectively at your teammate’s ideas (like the ‘C’ style) and listen receptively (like the ‘S’ style), you’re going to be much more likely to come to an agreement. 

Using different mindsets to address the emotional and interpersonal needs of your situation paves a way forward for your project. And it also serves to improve the relationship with your teammate.  I mean, we all want to be listened to and have our ideas validated. Even if the ideas we propose aren’t the ones that end up being used, we can usually buy-in because we’ve had the opportunity to weigh in. And when we feel heard and valued, it’s because someone has tried to meet us where we are. They’ve tried to ‘relate’ to us and that effort helps to improve relationships.

EQ consists of a number of soft skills related to the different mindsets. But there is nothing soft about how these skills can improve connection and community, and drive performance. For example, recent research shows that since March 2020, the skill of relationship building has grown 5.5x in importance. So being able to stretch into other mindsets in order to build and maintain relationships at work can be a major differentiator for a manager or team lead. Leaders who effectively build good relationships improve the level of trust between themselves and their teammates. And that leads to more collaboration and higher productivity.  

It’s clear that the upheaval and associated anxiety from the pandemic has impacted our mental health. Contributing to this is a lack of relatedness and connection at work. And although our human ability to buckle down and push through a crisis is great, we can’t do it forever. With no real end in sight to the COVID-19 crisis, we have to lean into ways to support ourselves and each other. One way to do that is to improve our emotional intelligence. Luckily for all of us, EQ isn’t a fixed score or measurement. Anyone can improve their emotional agility through practice. Doing this will improve our relationships and help us all to feel more connected at work. After all, connection and community at work are what we all crave.

To build on the EQ strengths of your team or department, we offer an excellent half-day program specific to improving emotional intelligence at work. Give us a call to see if it’s the right fit for your organization!

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