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Career Q&A - Am I Not Suitable for Promotion?

I have been told by my leaders and peers that I am not sensitive enough, not politically correct, prone to show my emotions too clearly and that is why I am missing out on promotion opportunities. How do I work around this? - Julia, Product Sales

The workplace is a jungle full of people, interactions and emotions. When emotions, interactions are not managed well, it often creates stressful, tense and unhappy work experiences. Thus learning to manage ourselves emotionally and socially becomes a critical area.

We are glad to share our view about social emotional learning to help you better manage your emotions and social interactions at work.

Social emotional intelligence is important

The importance of social and emotional learning has been established around the globe. The World Economic Forum Future of Jobs report has pointed out social and emotional competence to be a common theme across their top 10 identified skills for work. The OECD has also done global research and study among to establish the importance of social and emotional learning towards latter life outcomes.

Gardner's Theory Multiple Intelligences point out that people are capable of 8 different areas of intelligence, of which 2 of them - interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence relate to dealing with emotions and social interactions within self and with others. At workplaces, showing emotions used to be synonymous with weakness and vulnerability. Today, we are starting to see workplaces value social emotional intelligence. A quick search for the words “emotional intelligence” or “emotional quotient” on LinkedIn for executive positions show requirements in the job description as such:

“possess natural warmth, empathy, teamwork, conscientiousness, and a high level of emotional intelligence

“have the ability to handle sensitive and confidential situations with diplomacy. High emotional quotient and integrity and skillful in building relationships across departments”

“have a strong work ethic and interpersonal skills; such as emotional intelligence, active listening; assertive and persuasive communication; and ability to negotiate, inspire, build consensus, and effectively manage conflict”

Manage what happens after 90 seconds

To build social and emotional skills, it starts with self awareness of our emotions, how we feel and how we tend to react in different situations. According to Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard-trained neuroscientist specializing in the anatomy of the brain:

“When a person has a reaction to something in their environment, there’s a 90-second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop.”

If it only takes 90 seconds for emotions to be processed, why do we hold on to emotional responses for far longer than that? One possible reason could be the lack of emotional awareness to accurately identify our emotions and regulate them. Another reason could be an association with some deeper-seated triggers within us which makes it harder to process our emotions. Acknowledging we have emotions and identifying what they are, what triggers them is part of our emotional self awareness learning.

Give ourselves space to respond appropriately

When confronted with tense or unpleasant situations, our minds often increase in stress and quickly switches into a fight or flight mode. It is here where our amygdala portion of our brains take over without any conscious input from us and result in us responding in inappropriate ways.

In such cases, finding space by asking for a few seconds to think about what has happened or even excusing ourselves for a short break can allow us to to acknowledge our feelings, process the situation to reduce our amgydala's response and switch over to rely on our brain's frontal lobes where logic and reason can be used to develop a more appropriate response.

Pick up and respond to social verbal and non verbal cues correctly

In a conversation, there are lots of verbal and non verbal cues being exchanged and it requires us to be socially aware in order to be able to respond appropriately. This social awareness is built from our learnt past interactions with others, within our families, our schools, society. However, some of us may struggle with this more than others, due to a lack of social interactions or a possible social development challenge associated with a disorder eg. autism.

To improve on social interactions, we can identify the social situations that we find hardest to respond to or use the feedback given by others like our friends, colleagues, supervisors about interactions where we often struggle with. Having regular support from a social emotional learning therapist or coach to learn appropriate ways to improve and put them into practice can help us respond more appropriately in workplace interactions in future.

To be a people leader, we must first be a people person

At AVODAH People Solutions, we provide career guidance services to people who are considering career changes, making a job change or currently in a transition to find a job and also career enrichment services to people who want to be more effective at work. Share your career situation with us so that we can support you.


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