Archive for July, 2012
I heard a great story one day while teaching Emotional Intelligence (EQ). A young man in my class said he had recently had a terrible all-day fight with his wife, and because their children were with them, they sat on opposite sides of the room and sent text messages to each other. At one point he sent a text so harsh, so angry, that he realized as soon as he hit the “send” button he could never take it back. The relationship would be harmed forever.
Then he look over and noticed his wife had fallen asleep on the couch. He crept over to her, grabbed her phone, and deleted the nasty message.
When I heard the story I thought, what a great opportunity! So often we wish we could re-write a scene in our lives but we don’t get the chance. So I started to make that an activity in my EQ material; I’d ask participants to tell stories in small groups about a time when emotions got the better of them and the results weren’t what they wanted, and then to choose one person’s story and re-write it, just as if they were screenwriters working on a movie.
The thing is, the activity works well with groups who already “get it.” I’ve been noticing lately how often people don’t.
When people are not already on board with the idea that EQ is as important or more important than IQ at work, I get a different result. People tell stories about the last time they felt wronged by some jerk at work, rather than a time they made a mistake themselves. Everything is always the other guy’s fault in these stories. And one time someone said to me, “I don’t care if someone doesn’t like what I said or did. I’m not taking anything back, so if they don’t like it that’s their problem.”
The Hay Group, Dr. Daniel Goleman’s research and consulting group, found in a study of their clients that four in ten workers are unable to work cooperatively with their colleagues. Is it any wonder that so many change initiatives fail, that corporate cultures are lousy, that worker engagement is low in such organizations? And the first problem we must tackle is not teaching skills to improve EQ, but making the case that EQ is important to start with. As I often tell participants, it’s not about being “nice.” It’s about being effective. Are you getting the results you want from people? If not, the only thing you can change is your own behavior. Maybe you can’t really re-write a scene, but you can envision how to do it differently in the future—and we can all learn from that.
I’ve written often about how we need to stop talking smack about Generation Y, and how important it is for complaining Baby Boomers to recognize the contributions the young can make in the workplace and to start preparing them to lead. There are many reasons for this, including:
- The talent gap we should be expecting as aging Boomers retire and Generation X has no where near the numbers to fill their shoes
- The ease and skill Gen Y has with technology, and how far we have to go in harnessing that skill
- Gen Y’s penchant for teamwork
- The fact that the old have always complained about the young, ever since Socrates, in 400 BC said, “Children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” It’s a cliche and it’s time to get over it.
- Finally, the simple fact that the complaining Baby Boomers are Gen Y’s parents. Who made them what they are? Quit complaining and deal with it!
Last week’s Newsweek ran an article by David Frum titled Get the Old Off the Road! He means it both literally and figuratively, and his analysis of our current and dire situation is scathing. The Boomers are sacrificing the young in every way, he says, from endangering public safety by driving past a safe age, to “offloading budget pain” through proposals to protect Medicare and Social Security benefits for the old at the expense of the young, to the dismal job prospects and standard of living expectations today’s graduates face. While I’m not interested in arguing the politics of his points, I do think he identifies a trend in attitude that is to be taken seriously.
“No doubt Cro-Magnons complained that their kids didn’t appreciate their effort to put a nice, dry cave above their heads,” Frum writes. “Yet we seem today to hear a new bitterness in the attitudes of the old, a special glee in reproaching and denouncing the young. In 2012 job seekers outnumber jobs offered by a margin of 3–1, down from a post-Depression record of 5.5–1 in early 2009, with the ratio worst among the youngest workers. As young job applicants collect rejection slips, the leading conservative policy intellectual, Charles Murray, has publicly urged his fellow older Americans to regard unemployed young men as ‘lazy, irresponsible, and unmanly’ and to publicly revile them as ‘bums.’”
I’ve been saying for years that there’s nothing new about the old complaining about the young. Is it true, that we’ve escalated our complaints to new and dangerous heights? If so, we should heed Frum’s warning: “…the young are the country’s future. If it’s uncaring for society to neglect the old, it’s outright suicidal to cannibalize the life chances of the rising generation.”