If the key to successful teamwork is emotional intelligence, as Google’s comprehensive research into the subject has concluded, then maybe we’ve gotten it all wrong. Top companies screen for exceptional technical (or hard) skills foremost and second, cultural fit. But what if the culture stinks? What if, like in many companies, employees are emotionally disconnected and feel threatened? The potential of A players cannot not be fully realized in this scenario, leaving a tremendous amount of profitability and productivity on the table, not to mention employee well-being.
Top-notch players with the best technical skill can come at the expense of a collaborative work environment. Not always, but it does happen when companies over-focus on hard skills. Most people are not good interviewers to begin with and emotional sensitivity is hard to discern an interview, no matter how talented the person posing the questions. The issue is: What we are leaving on the table by not considering the impact of a personality on corporate culture and teamwork? Hiring one bad apple can wreak complete havoc on company morale, motivation and productivity.
Underscoring this reality, a recent Gallup poll on the state of the American workplace uncovered the grim reality that 70 percent of American workers are “not engaged” or are “actively disengaged” and are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces. Without a doubt, the majority of companies are not fully reaping the rewards that they could. Workplace morale suffers because of it.
Gallup found that "engaged employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation.” The disengaged do the opposite, undermining engaged coworkers. In the Washington Post, Lillian Cunningham points to the economic as well as morale problem evident when only 30 percent of a workforce are motivated and productivity plummets. Psychology Today points to a Harris Work Stress survey discovering that 83 percent of the interviewed employees are stressed out by work, with documented damage to mental health, increased risk of disease and death, and lower worker productivity among other harmful consequences. Douglas LaBier, PhD. maintains that unsupportive management cultures, lack of opportunities to learn and grow, mismatches between skills and position, as well as “outright abusive, arrogant and narcissistic bosses” play into the destructive workplace stress.
To combat the lack of corporate transparency, B Team, comprised of business luminaries such as Sir Richard Branson, urges companies to develop policies that inspire wellbeing. Although B Team has laudable goals around serving broader community needs, let’s use their example as a metaphor for how we can do better by society. We are not talking about lowering standards and hiring B players. I mean broadening the definition of an A player to include outstanding interpersonal skills and proven emotional sensitivity that arguably should be measured in performance reviews and factored into compensation.
As a start to this process, we can recognize the negative patterns in the workplace culture and choose to reward the creation of psychological safety. We can commit to the softer skills in recruiting and maintaining new talent, rather than addressing the drive for achievement (without regard for others) above all. We can look for demonstrated cases of collaboration, conversational turn-taking in meetings, consideration for the opinions of others, knowledge-sharing and other traits that will allow creativity and innovation to flourish in others. We can join the philosophical B Team of well-rounded A players that will not only enhance the bottom line but make the workplace a positive one.