How to Apply Emotional Intelligence in Difficult Workplace Scenarios (Part 2)

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How to Apply Emotional Intelligence in Difficult Workplace Scenarios (Part 2)

This is part 2 of our series on applying emotional intelligence in difficult workplace scenarios. Part 1 covered unwarranted criticism and a lie from a colleague.

Scenario 3: Two Colleagues Are Arguing, They Put You in the Middle

Your department has been having a lot of problems and tensions are high. Two colleagues start an argument over who was responsible for a task that was left unfinished and is now holding up a large project. They call you into it, asking you to name who was responsible.

While there are cases where one person is very clearly wrong, workplace arguments often stem from misunderstandings, difficulty communicating, and an inability to compromise. You should step back from the situation and evaluate what happened and why. In many cases, there is no clear-cut winner, and there shouldn’t be. Instead, you should ask them what they are doing to resolve the problem, how they can work to fix it together, and how they can work to avoid such delegation errors in the future.

Scenario 4: Your Colleague Turned in a Task Behind Schedule and Doesn’t Realize How It Affects You

Your colleague turns several tasks around behind schedule, leaving you waiting and behind on your own work. You’re frustrated with the wait but your colleague doesn’t seem to care.

Using emotional intelligence in this situation requires that you stop to consider what factors might be affecting your colleague’s performance. For example, they might be facing technological delays, might be stressed from a personal-life occurrence, or might even be sick. A good approach would be to ask why they are behind, and then, if possible with your own workload, offer to help or ask their boss to provide someone to assist on the task.

It’s crucial to avoid blame or becoming angry, even if it’s frustrating for you. Instead, you should work to proactively understand what might be holding them up, look for a solution where possible, and try to prevent similar problems in the future. For example, you could ask the colleague to create a timeline or schedule planning with you, so that neither of you are bottlenecked by the other.

Scenario 5: Your Colleague Plagiarizes Your Ideas in a Meeting

You give your input on a new project, using your past experience to suggest a plan of action and your own ideas. At the follow-up meeting, your colleague presents your idea with some of their own ideas, eventually receiving praise for the idea from your boss.

In this situation, it’s both important that you consider your own emotional needs for validation and your colleagues emotional needs and motivations. They may not have intended to talk over you or plagiarize your idea and if they did, discrediting them in public could be demoralizing.

Speaking up to make it clear that you had something to do with the idea without completely discrediting your colleague would be an emotionally intelligent response. For example, by saying that while discussing it with the colleague last week, you had come up with additional ideas as well you could defuse the situation, which you could follow up with a private discussion.

If you can recognize internal feelings and emotions as they happen, you can control what you are feeling and why. Separating emotions and using logic to reason through difficult scenarios will allow you to make better decisions, to better consider the motivations and emotions of others, and to make choices that benefit everyone involved.


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