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I'm Sick Of Hearing About Emotional Intelligence

I write about bringing life to work and bringing work to life. Full bio

I was a Fortune 500 HR SVP for ten million years, but I was an opera singer before I ever heard the term HR. The higher I got in the corporate world, the more operatic the action became. I started writing about the workplace for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1997, but it took me ages to find my own voice. Now I write for the Huffington Post, Business Week, LinkedIn, the Harvard Business Review, the Denver Post and Forbes.com and lead the worldwide Human Workplace movement to reinvent work for people. Stop by and join us: http://www.humanworkplace.com


Every few years there’s a new leadership fad, and right now it’s Emotional Intelligence. I’m sick of them all, and I’m really tired of all the articles and courses and blather about Emotional Intelligence.

We don’t have to invent an academic-sounding term to describe what happens when people behave like humans at work. We don’t have to gape in wonder and applaud when people treat one another with respect.

People who don’t know how to talk to other people politely are less likely to be impaired than to be merely thoughtless and rude. It isn’t that Emotional Intelligence is some rare quality bestowed on just a few of us.

We’ve all seen people treat one another respectfully, thousands and thousands of times. We’ve all seen people get bullied and spoken down to, as well. We choose which words we allow to slip out of our mouths.

Do we have to exalt simple human courtesy as a subject of academic study? Can’t we expect it in any setting where people gather, including every workplace?

We can hold ourselves and the people around us to a higher standard at work than we do now. Do we really need classes and exercises to teach people how to act with others?

The thing that bugs me most about the Emotional Intelligence dogma is that it cements the idea that speaking and listening and problem-solving in a normal human manner is exceptional and noteworthy at work. It isn’t. We say about some leaders, “Well, he has no Emotional Intelligence – that’s why he acts that way” as though God or Mother Nature simply dealt the poor leader a bad hand at birth.

What a sad story!


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