Emotional intelligence to have upper hand in post-COVID-19 recruitment
June 18, 2020
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Hiring managers will need to start promoting and recruiting workers for their emotional intelligence, not just technical ability, as we move towards a post-coronavirus culture.

This is according to Professor Cary Cooper, who spoke during day two of the CIPD’s Festival of Work on the growing importance of a strong wellbeing structure within organisations. 

“The more we have people with EQ [emotional quotient], the more we can identify when people are feeling low and can listen and bring teams together, he said. “The challenge is how to train its existing cohort in this and not just promote people on just technical skills.” 

Cooper said organisations in the past had never confronted the issue of poor emotional skills in managers but predicts this is beginning to change.

He said: “The workplace will be different as we will be working substantially more from home so we need more ‘EQed’ line managers. There will be lots of issues we need to face and we will finally get at the productivity issue more than we have before.

“Pre-crisis, wellbeing was beginning to be strategic, and I now suspect this will be a board issue from now on in most companies.”

Wellbeing was a major theme across the entire day of the conference, with many speakers detailing the importance of focusing on employee welfare during the coronavirus crisis and its link to overall health. 

Economist Lord Gus O’Donnell said employers need to be wary of the workers most affected by the fallout from coronavirus. 

He said: “Young, female and low income groups have been hit very badly by the crisis [in terms of unemployment]. We also need to be very careful when we use the term BAME as different things are happening to different ethnicities. 

“A lot of the differences can be explained by income and class. Young groups are suffering because they are much more likely to be in sectors that have closed down. People who are furloughed have an average income of £320 per week. The crisis is exacerbating inequalities.” 

O’Donnell was also concerned that despite its benefits, remote working had led to feelings of isolation. 

He said: “A lot of people are saying they like the social aspect of work. People will spend more time at home than before, but I think they will still want their social connections.” 

Cooper agreed, yet acknowledged the economic pressure businesses will be under and the potential to reduce office space to cut costs. 

He said: “We are not entering a recession but a depression. This will mean employers have to save money, and they can do this by reducing office space and travel costs. We will all need a central office environment but still work substantially from home, maybe not exclusively.” 

Properly understanding your workforce was also highlighted as a key wellbeing strategy.

Speaking during the panel session, Dame Carol Black, chair of the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “Often companies don’t do enough detailed work. They want to do the right thing but don’t have granular enough data on their workforce. They don’t know in detail how much of their workforce has financial problems etc. 

“The more granular the detail…the better. You then use resources to put in targeted interventions.” 

All of this, Cooper concluded, contributes to a need for more emotionally intelligent leaders.

Managing Your Emotions With Hostile Customers
March 16, 2020
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Imagine that you’ve just picked up the phone to answer a customer’s call, or a client has unexpectedly arrived in person at your office. Out of the blue, you find yourself on the receiving end of some shocking rudeness. And you’re left gasping.

How do you manage yourself, calm the situation, and build bridges with this person, who remains important to your business? And how do you recover from the experience and prevent such a situation happening again?

Although customer service and sales people most commonly encounter such situations, everyone has “customers.” Anyone who you interact within your workplace who looks to you for results or some other output is a customer.

In this article, we explore five strategies for dealing with rude customers, and we look at how to handle the aftermath of these difficult confrontations.

Sorting Unhappy Customers from Rude Ones: 

If a customer is unhappy about the quality of goods or services that he or she has received from your organisation, he is perfectly entitled to express his dissatisfaction. And if he remains calm and civil,

despite his frustration or anger, you’ll most likely be willing to help him with his grievances. You’ll try hard to put things right, whether it’s replacing a faulty toaster or compensating him for a missed family holiday because of an over-booked flight.

Occasionally, though, despite your welcoming manner, expert knowledge and willingness to help, there are people who can’t control their anger and resort to verbal abuse, offensive language, and even threatening words or behaviour. When you’re confronted by these rude customers, it can be difficult to know how to respond or defuse the situation.

Strategies for Handling Rude Customers: 

Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada, have studied “incivility” between customers and employees. Their findings show that employees who expect to encounter rude customers at work react far less strongly than employees who normally enjoy good customer relations, but who face unexpected rudeness.

The researchers recommend that organisations train their staff to deal effectively with irate customers, even when those customers are generally viewed as highly civil. And they add that employees should deal with rude customers at the time of the encounter, rather than try to repair a damaged relationship after the event.

The consequences of not handling such situations effectively can be serious. The UBC study cites customer incivility as a cause of stress, emotional exhaustion, absenteeism, and reduced performance. And if an employee reacts negatively to the customer, it threatens an organisation’s reputation for customer service and can impact customer retention.

Coming face to face with a raging customer can be a frightening experience. So, what do you do if you are suddenly on the receiving end of a stream of bile and abuse? Here, we explore five strategies for dealing with rude customers:

1. Stay Calm, Don’t React.

The first thing to do is to remain calm and not respond in kind. If you are faced with an unexpected verbal attack, a natural defence mechanism is to “bite back.” Something as simple as taking some deep breaths can give you a vital few seconds to gather your thoughts and avoid retaliating in a way that might see you being viewed as the aggressor.

Tip: Your personal safety is paramount. If you feel threatened by an angry person, trust your instincts and leave the room immediately if you feel unsafe, or if you’re too upset to resolve the situation on your own.

Ask your boss or a trusted colleague to work with you to resolve the situation. It might also be appropriate to report the incident if the person is completely out of control.

The UBC research suggests that rude customers “can violate an employee’s sense of dignity and respect, and trigger negative emotions that can motivate employees to react negatively” toward that customer. So avoid “fighting fire with fire.” Remain calm, controlled and tactful, otherwise, you risk inflaming the situation further. Keeping your emotions in check can defuse the encounter. If your interaction with the customer is by email or on social media, you may have worse rudeness to contend with. People often say things online that they’d never say in person, but resist the temptation to give them a “taste of their own medicine.” Take a deep breath. Go for a walk to disperse the tension. Do whatever it takes to gain distance before you hit “send.” When you do write your reply, keep your cool, state the facts, and make clear your willingness to help.

2. Don’t Take It Personally.

Chances are, your customer is angry about a bad product or service and you are just the unfortunate target for her frustration. Instead of taking her rudeness to heart, try to empathize with her. She wants to know that you understand the inconvenience and disappointment that she’s suffered, so you need to show her that you do. Developing emotional intelligence is a useful strategy for managing your emotions and sensing other people’s emotional needs. 

Occasionally, though, it really does feel personal. A customer will approach you with the sole purpose of insulting you. 

Despite the provocation, try to remember that the customer doesn’t know you personally. He was probably angry or having a bad day before he met you, and had already decided that he was going to “raise hell” with somebody. In these situations, it doesn’t matter who you are, you’re just the unlucky one in the firing line.

Tip: One way of learning how to deal with rude customers is with Role Playing. Our article can help you use this technique to prepare for a variety of challenging or difficult situations.

3. Listen and, If Appropriate, Apologise.

A rude customer might want to vent her frustration. She wants you to hear every word that she says, so listen actively, no matter how unreasonable she sounds. Demonstrate that you have taken in what she’s said by occasionally reflecting back her words. For example, use phrases like, “So, it sounds like you’re saying that,” “What I’m hearing is,” or, “Is this what you mean?”

Be aware of your body language while she speaks. Keep your arms unfolded, and maintain appropriate eye contact to demonstrate your open attitude. And when you reply, keep your voice low and even, to keep things calm.

Saying sorry might run against every instinct you have if you’ve been subjected to a barrage of abuse. But if the customer’s grievance is genuine, a prompt apology may staunch the flow of rudeness and provide the basis for a better relationship.

4. Stand Firm.

You may have apologized and be going all out to help your customer, but you don’t want him to walk all over you. If he’s factually wrong or if he’s not letting you get a word in, you may need to be more assertive to get your message across.

If you’re a team manager, your team member may ask you to step in to help resolve the situation. That means balancing your responsibility for ensuring that you satisfy your customer with the duty of care you have towards your people or your organisation.

In situations when a customer’s behaviour has become unacceptable, it’s important to tactfully let her know that she’s “crossed a line” – for example, when she’s using insulting, threatening or racist words or behaviour. It may be possible for you to negotiate a solution, but it might be one of those rare instances when it’s best to let the customer go.

Tip: Make sure that you agree with your manager or head of department what behaviours are to be deemed unacceptable in this way.

5. Solve the Problem

The best way to disarm a rude customer is to involve him in taking away the problem that’s fuelling his behaviour. Ask him what he feels would be an acceptable solution. You then have something concrete to work toward.

Most customers just want a fair resolution, but a rude customer may make unrealistic or extreme demands. If so, remind him that you want to help, and counter with suggestions that are fair and reasonable, and negotiate towards a mutually acceptable deal.

Look for quick, simple solutions. Many problems that lead to customer rudeness will have occurred before, so your company may have policies that allow you to offer refunds or replacements, for example, with little fuss. Fast resolutions satisfy the customer, minimize stress, and end difficult situations swiftly.

Dealing with the Aftermath: 

Encountering a rude customer can be a highly stressful experience, so it’s important to take a breather afterwards. If you can remember that very few of your customers behave in this way, you’ll gain some valuable perspective.

It’s also important to think through what happened, to consider whether the customer’s rudeness reflects a bigger problem or a recurring issue. You may need to report the situation to your manager – for example, if the problem is beyond your remit to resolve – or follow up with the customer, much as you might prefer not to.

If you’re a manager, remember that it’s not just about the customer’s feelings. An encounter with a rude customer will eventually end, but your team members are the people that you work with and manage every day.

So, if one of your team has been dealing with a rude customer, check in with her to make sure that she’s OK. Choose your time well – straight after the situation is a good time for some team members but not for others. Discuss what was said, to ensure you have a full picture of what occurred, and find out if there’s anything you need to look into in light of her experience.

Key Points

Rude customers differ from the merely unhappy in that they can’t control their anger. 

They are unreasonable, unfriendly, and prone to using verbal abuse, offensive language and threatening behaviour. But you’re in business to serve your customers, so it’s important to try to help them.

When dealing with rude customers, it’s crucial to control your own emotions, and to counteract their inflammatory behaviour with calm, considered responses. 

Remember, try not to take any comments personally, listen actively to your customer, and apologize if it’s appropriate to do so.

Emotional Intelligence – the New Skills Gap
February 24, 2020
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By Nick Kirk – Managing Director at Michael Page.

Employers want to hire people with emotional intelligence skills but candidates aren’t listing them on applications

There has been a lot of buzz recently around emotional intelligence, often referred to as EQ. Back in 2016 the World Economic Forum named emotional intelligence as one of the most important workplace skills needed for success in 2020.

Emotional intelligence is being aware of one’s own emotions and being able to handle interpersonal relationships with empathy.

However, recent research by Michael Page has uncovered a worrying new trend in the UK jobs market: an emotional intelligence skills gap.

The key finding of our study shows that there is a clear disconnect between the skills employers want and those jobseekers are displaying when it comes to emotional intelligence.

Half of the employers surveyed cited emotional intelligence as increasingly important for those entering today’s workforce, ranking it higher than work experience or even holding a degree. However, this is rarely mentioned in candidates’ applications.

Despite emphasis being placed on emotional intelligence by those in hiring positions, just 0.4% of PageGroup applicants over the last year reference empathy in their CV – a key tenet of emotional intelligence – while just 0.81% mention listening as one of their skills.

Emotional intelligence skills are consistently being ranked higher than more traditional skills such as foreign languages or financial acumen.

Essentially emotional intelligence in the workplace comes down to understanding, expressing, managing good relationships and solving problems under pressure.

Our capacity for emotional intelligence is one of the most obvious ways humans have the edge over technological counterparts. What is worrying is that candidates are not highlighting these skills to potential employers, despite clear demand for them.

To help address this I urge companies to look at jobseekers who have clearly evaluated their skillset and highlighted the most valuable ones.

Introducing EQ into the recruitment and assessment process will help to identify the candidates with the right attitude and mindset to work well with colleagues, be advocates of change, and deliver against your organisation’s objectives.

For instance, self-awareness is key to emotional intelligence. Employees who spend time observing and reflecting on their emotional responses to different situations, and who pay attention to their physical reactions, can have a great impact on company culture.

Active listening skills and motivation are also two invaluable traits of EQ. People who possess them understand issues from different perspectives, demonstrate optimism and a desire to build valuable relationships with others, and continually improve their skillset.

However, just as it is important to seek new hires with emotional intelligence, it is vital for managers and other business leaders to operate in emotionally intelligent ways to meet the needs of today’s workers.

Stress can trigger irrational behaviour that is often attributed to low emotional intelligence. Consider the best way to reduce the stress levels within your business – whether that’s allowing employees to take a break from their desks, listen to music, or go for a walk.

Much as people would regularly exercise to stay in shape physically, they need to regularly work on their emotional intelligence skills so that they improve.

Investing in emotional intelligence will result in more engaged, committed employees who will help to move your business forward.

We need to ensure the potential emotional intelligence skills gap in the country is addressed before it becomes a major business issue.

Business leaders should focus on driving change from within their own organisations so employees can follow their example. As the importance of emotional intelligence becomes widely recognised, I hope we will see jobseekers adapt their applications to reflect the behaviour demonstrated by businesses – with both putting EQ high on their list of priorities.

8 Psychology-Backed TED Talks That’ll Help You Understand Why You Do What You Do
February 25, 2019
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8 TED Talks to Understand Your Co-workers and You