“Hard facts of soft skills”- 23 August 2011

Everyone is talking of soft skills at the work place. People are beginning to realise that the personality qualities are more important than the technical know- how to stay employed and to stay ahead of people. Because of the competition levels in the work place which is becoming ruthless so say, the best man /woman get the job and stays there. In a highly stressful environment such as this the psychologically tough survive where as others are left behind. Everyone is recognising the importance of personal attributes or better known as emotional quotient of the individual. The IQ versus the EQ debate is well rehearsed in industrial and management circles. A long list of requisite personal attributes is drawn by experts for individuals desirous of achieving excellence at the work place. Qualities which are aimed at self management such as optimism, motivation, time management, integrity etc; and qualities that are aimed at managing others such as communication, empathy, leadership, team work etc, to name a few, are often mentioned.

For the attainment of these qualities it requires a tremendous amount of emotional control and emotional discipline. This is no mean task and requires a hard head under the soft skill development programme. Most people fail and take several years to even get a hang of what we are talking about. Those that are well trained at home by parents who themselves are adept at it are lucky to learn it by default. For the less fortunate others it’s an up-hill struggle. Take an emotion like anxiety and insecurity. Shekhar, an assistant manager in a company with twenty juniors in his team, was a sensitive and emotional guy. He would get upset with a junior if someone did not listen to his orders and defied it instead. He would lose his cool, get worked up, get angry or would clam up. He would sulk at times and take home the stress. A number of good working hours would be wasted in uncreative pursuits. He is poor in communication and interpersonal skills everyone would say. Shekhar is sensitive to his sense of ‘self respect’ too. He wants his juniors to respect him and takes their defiance as disrespect to his self. In fact every little conflict between him and his colleagues makes him insecure about his role and position in the organisation. A little criticism from his colleagues makes him feel terribly disrespected. He was a good person at heart but was not so effective in managing conflict with others. He demanded respect but somehow did not command it as much as he desired it. The main problem was his lack of control over his emotion of insecurity. This emotion has many manifestations I have mentioned only a few aspects.

Sunita has an attribute to her personality which is different from Shekhar. She has a strong jealous streak in her make- up. She often gets envious of colleagues who do better than her, who speak better than her, who get more brownie points than her, who get appreciated for their work in the office. She herself is intelligent and competent enough to rise in the organisation but she cannot handle her emotion of jealousy. Unable to control the rising feeling in her she has a tendency to erupt in her conversations with her so called competitors. She is known as ‘miss green’ as her emotions of jealousy is an open secret among her colleagues. If she could control her feelings of jealousy she could learn to appreciate her colleagues, accept their talents and strengths and get into a leadership position. But her emotional weakness acted as an obstacle to her interpersonal skills on the job.

There are several emotions which can act as impediments in progress. Handling the emotions entails firstly an awareness of your main negative emotions that play prominently in your life. This itself requires a sincere and honest effort at introspection on a continuous basis of one’s strengths and weaknesses. Once awareness is gained and the truth has been accepted whole-heartedly, then begins the process of working on it to control it in real life situations whenever it manifests. This is again no mean task! After the control comes the process of changing it into a positive force and overcoming it. All this requires a tremendous amount of psychical energy and the will to gain control over one’s own mind and emotions. It sounds simple enough but is the work of a head with hard logic and reason. Try it.

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